Theatre Of Pain is an interesting album in the career of the Crüe. Released in June 1985, it cemented the Los Angeles quartet as one of the hottest act of the decade thanks in no small part to the Brownsville Station’s cover “Smokin’ In the Boys Room” and the power ballad “Home Sweet Home” that launched a trend for the remaining of the eighties.
Nowadays, it is regarded as somewhat of a let down. Even the band will tell you that they dropped the ball on this one. Apart form its two singles, it is often considered their worst album of the eighties.
Well, I argue that this album is not that bad after all and I praise myself for listening to it quite often, probably as much as Shout At The Devil and even more than Girls, Girls, Girls, which I find unexciting and lacking in consistency (save some good moments in “Wild Side” and the iconic title track).
Maybe this has to do with the fact that it is the first album of the Crüe I ever listened to. I have to say that fearing the worst after looking at the picture of the band in their lace outfits on the back of the CD, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the interesting opening track “City Boy Blues.” A bluesy guitar with hard rocking tones, pounding drums and a vocalist that, despite a few limitations, is able to transmit great energy to whomever is listening. Considering the dark months that took place before the release of Theatre Of Pain, the record vehicles a certain sense of positivity (at least that is the way I feel about it), maybe as a way to show that after the tragedy in which Vince Neil was involved (when he killed Hanoï Rocks’ drummer, Razzle, while drunk driving), it was time to soldier on and keep going.
“Louder Than Hell” being a reject of the SATD writing sessions, it is naturally close in style to that album but the rest shows the new face of Mötley. Colorful, larger than life and maybe a bit all over the place, tracks like “Tonight (We Need A Lover)” or “Fight For Your Rights” won’t leave you indifferent and are unfairly forgotten killers. Sure, there are a couple fillers here and there (“Raise Your Hands To Rock” and “Use It Or Lose It”) and it shows that the band was lacking focus at the time, but there is an undeniable charm in a song like “Keep Your Eye On The Money” for example.
A lot more versatile than SATD, Theatre of Pain also saw the Crüe becoming headliners for the first time, after supporting Ozzy on his Bark At The Moon tour back in ’83. Ironically, even with the disdain of critics and the disregard of the band for their own work, the album went on to be a top ten hit in America (#6 in 1985) and proved to everyone that they were far from being finished and were a force to reckon with. A guilty pleasure of mine!