As much as I may appreciate "respectable" rock artists (i.e., those with big anthemic hooks, critical cred and, well, class, such as U2, Bon Jovi, etc.), every once in a while you just want to crank the stereo up to 11 and listen to some big, dumb, crude-ass fist-pumping music. The kind of trashy rock that's usually of the heavy metal variety, a two-chord tune about sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, and more sex -- usually not in that order. And when you want something so juvenile and stupid it makes Spinal Tap look like genius, is there a better band than Motley Crue?
I will admit to being anti-metal during my teen years. I was into alternative and electronic rock (I still own and love every Depeche Mode album), and have only now come to appreciate the Crue. As dumb as their big hair and transvestite-goth look may have been in the '80s, once you separate the look from the music, you can actually see that the band made some undeniably strong pop-metal, from the testosterone grind of "Girls, Girls, Girls," to the sensitive balladry (yes, that's sarcasm) of "Home Sweet Home," to one of the best guilty-pleasure tunes ever, "Dr. Feelgood." These are totally fun, jump-on-the-couch-and-play-air-guitar songs, the kind the game "Rock Band" was made for.
For the Crue's first-ever Blu-ray release, the band has wisely chosen to release 'Carnival of Sins.' Filmed during a stop on their 2005 reunion tour (a bury-the-hatchet road trip that, alas, proved short-lived, as yet another acrimonious split followed), this 25-strong set has all the Crue classics one would expect, plus a smattering of newer stuff (the kind where you run to the beer stand, or go take a piss). It's all wrapped up by an amusing carnival-themed stage set, which adds an appropriately perverse touch to the visuals. Add to that an audience of drunken dudes and big-breasted girls (many of whom aren't shy about showing them off) only too happy to lap up every dumb-ass stunt the Crue boys pull, and you have one fun, decadent rock concert.
Directed by Hamish Hamilton (who has helmed concert discs for U2, Robbie Williams, and Britney Spears), the filming has plenty of visual pizzazz. I thought the tricks were a bit overdone, but Hamilton throws in plenty of grainy interludes, video toaster effects, and endless shots of half-naked girls swigging beer. There's enough T&A to earn the disc an R rating from the MPAA (rare for a concert disc), and enough going in terms of the staging, that I found myself entranced even during the lamest new songs. Say what you want about the Crue, but for all they've been through -- and with their kabuki make-up, the members (aside from a pudgy Vince Neill) look like death incarnate -- they still put on a good show... and Hamilton figured out how to capture it.
Is 'Carnival of Sins' likely to appeal to anyone but Crue fans? Not likely. This is not the kind of concert film made for converted fans, and it will probably just appall critics of the band even further. But even casual fans like me can find much to enjoy in all the bombast and self-indulgence (particularly if you use the fast-forward button to skip to the good tracks), which is always a sign of a good concert movie. If you dig the Crue at all, 'Carnival of Sins' is worth buying a ticket to.
The tracklist includes: 01. Shout At the Devil / 02. Too Fast for Love / 03. Ten Seconds to Love / 04. Red Hot / 05. On With the Show / 06. Too Young to Fall in Love / 07. Looks That Kill / 08. Louder Than Hell / 09. Live Wire / 10. Girls Girls Girls / 11. Wild Side / 12. Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away) / 13. Primal Scream / 14. Glitter / 15. Without You / 16. Home Sweet Home / 17. Nikki's Solo / 18. Dr. Feelgood / 19. Tommy's Solo / 20. Same Ol' Situation / 21. Tommy Cam / 22. Sick Love Song / 23. If I Die Tomorrow / 24. Kickstart My Heart / 25. Helter Skelter / 26. Anarchy In The UK
'Carnival of Sins' is the second Blu-ray music release I've reviewed from WEA in the past week (after 'Ozzfest: 10th Anniversary'), and it's another disappointment. The video is just not that great (and as you'll see below) the audio is poor as well. WEA is just not impressing me at the moment.
Video quality is not the huge jump over the standard DVD that you'd expect from a shot-on-HD Blu-ray. The image is not terrible, but it can appear flat in lower-lit areas. Colors appear a tad too pumped up, so there is some noise (though to be fair, they're pretty vibrant). Typical of live concert presentations, detail and sharpness make a strong impact, especially in bright shots and close-ups. However, even compared to 'Ozzfest' (which was just pretty good), 'Carnival of Sins' seems less dimensional than the better high-def I've seen. Note also that there are many intentionally stylized moments, There are also some instances of compression artifacts, particularly pixelization on fast cuts/motion. 'Carnival of Sins' just doesn't wow.
As lacking as the video is on 'Carnival of Sins,' it ain't as bad as the audio. WEA cheaps out, and gives us only Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps) and 2.0 Stereo (192kbps) options, both English. Pretty lame all around.
The mix sounds like it was just ported directly over from the DVD release. It's fine, but this ain't high resolution. Dynamics are fair -- low bass is adequate, and there is decent clarity and spark to the higher-range. Vocals are balanced properly in the mix, so there is no fighting for presence between the various elements. But there certainly is nowhere near the oomph as the best high-res audio tracks I've heard on other Blu-ray music titles. Surrounds are minimal, and reserved almost solely for crowd noise. No great shakes, this one.
WEA at least includes all of the same extras as the standard DVD release. It's a fine if straightforward assortment, not unlike the making-of stuff you usually get on music titles. All the video is presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 video, and there are no subtitles that I could find.
'Motley Crue: Carnival of Sins' presents the aging rockers in fine form, or at least their usual decadent selves. Unfortunately, this Blu-ray does not do such excess justice. The video and audio are middling for a high-def release, though the extras are pretty good. Give this one a rent, as it really doesn't offer much of an upgrade over the standard DVD.