The film adaptation of the notorious Mötley Crüe tell-all is a total shitshow on screen, but the soundtrack will kickstart your heart
A little over a decade ago, the fiery-colored spine of The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band on a friend’s bookshelf caught my attention. She couldn’t believe I hadn’t read the Mötley Crüe biography published back in 2001. She lent it to me, and I read it in one afternoon, blasting every ‘80s Mötley Crüe album on repeat rotation on my five-disc changer, the volume turned up very loud.
Almost 20 years later, the band have signed off on the film adaptation, the biopic of the same name directed by Jeff Tremaine (Jackass), to be released on Netflix today. The film comes with an 18-song soundtrack. This includes four newly recorded ones exclusively for this release with lyrics that reflect the book and the film.
The 14 other songs are drawn from the ‘80s albums that backtracked my reading of The Dirt. Five from the taut Too Fast for Love (1981): “On with the Show,” “Live Wire,” “Merry Go Round,” “Take Me to the Top,” and “Piece of Your Action.” Four from the raw Shout at the Devil (1983) including the title track, “Red Hot,” “Looks That Kill” and “Too Young to Fall in Love.” Three from the crushing Dr. Feelgood (1989), including the title track, “Same Ol’ Situation” and “Kickstart My Heart,” plus the raunchy title track from Girls Girls Girls (1987) and the evergreen power ballad “Home Sweet Home” from Theatre of Pain (1985).
The 1991 Mötley Crüe compilation, Decade of Decadence, has a similar tracklisting. The Dirt, however, packs a heftier one-two punch with a heavy dosage of the visceral songs Nikki Sixx penned just out of his teens—arguably the best ones of his songwriting career. There is a noticeably small percentage of songs produced by Bob Rock, the go-to hard rock producer, who stepped into the Mötley Crüe producer seat at the time of Dr. Feelgood and never left that position.
Bob Rock stays strapped to that producer seat for the four new songs: the opening title track featuring Machine Gun Kelly, who plays drummer Tommy Lee in the biopic; “Ride with the Devil,” “Crash and Burn” and the band’s incongruous cover of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”, which closes out the soundtrack. Even Mötley can’t take the saccharine out of that song, although they try their hardest with Vince Neil snarling the lyrics and Mick Mars’ diligent guitar rips. It’s an appropriate accompaniment to The Dirt which has the crunching Mötley-style verses, but gets a little too pretty in the chorus. Machine Gun Kelly does his due diligence by bringing some smutty rapping to the table, but The Dirt is still too slick for itself. “Crash and Burn” and “Ride with the Devil” (a little close to “Shout at the Devil”) are variations on The Dirt, according to Sixx, who has been quoted as saying all three new songs were called “The Dirt” in the writing and recording process.
While the film with its painful and mannered acting—using the term loosely—is unwatchable, the music is on point. And The Dirt is still the best music book I have ever read. Couple that with the soundtrack on repeat—skipping the first and last three songs—and a reread is in order.