Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
Motorhead were legends, even before this most raw and brutal live album was released. From their self-titled debut, through to the unbeatable run of ‘Overkill’, ‘Bomber’ and ‘Ace Of Spades’ the band had a skyrocketing profile, the latter piercing the top five in the album charts.
This though was the album that truly cemented their place in the rock pantheon, the apex of the work they’d done to that point and a blazing record of what the band were capable of in the live setting.
Whilst an expanded two disc issue of the album was released in 2001, this new edition covers four CDs and contains a mammoth seventy-one tracks from the 1980 ‘Short Sharp Pain In The Neck’ tour, famously none of them being at Hammersmith itself. Along with the original album in expanded form, you also get complete shows from the Newcastle and Leeds dates, along with tracks from the Newcastle soundcheck and it all adds up to an immersive aural experience that is second to none.
The visceral power of the band was overwhelming at the shows, the volume brutal and the mix of sweat and beer heady as anyone who was fortunate enough to catch them live at the time could testify. There was genuinely no-one who could come close, Motorhead’s brand of souped-up, knuckleduster and biker gang rock ‘n’ roll an adrenaline and amphetamine fuelled assault on the senses that brought in metalheads and punks in equal measure.
Whilst rock was to see a huge surge of live albums released in the 70’s, nothing since the MC5’s ‘Kick Out The Jams’ outing in 1969 had sounded just so electric and urgent, reflecting the thrill of a live show. With the expanded content on these four discs you can truly immerse yourself in the experience like never before, especially in headphones and the sound and fury assaults you.
Whilst the album has always been a ‘must-have’, its track listing known to everyone who’s ever heard it, the magic of that ‘classic’ line-up of Kilminster, Clarke and Taylor tearing into these songs at the height of their powers is still breath taking.
The titanic opening rumble of ‘Ace of Spades’, its full tilt charge into mayhem, is like being body slammed by a Mack truck and still remains an unbeatable way to kick off. The freight train charge of ‘Stay Clean’, ‘Metropolis’ and ‘The Hammer’ follow, all removing any resistance before biker anthem ‘Iron Horse/Born To Lose’ brings some seriously heavy blues into the mix.
Lemmy always disliked the label ‘heavy metal’ for what they were doing but it’s a term that has always been good to the band, catching that original wave of passion generated by the NWOBHM, but you can understand his point. Tracks presented here like ‘Overkill’ are furiously fast rock ‘n’ roll, done with a weight and speed that the late, great frontman’s heroes could never have envisioned and the writing comes from that heart.
‘(We Are) The Road Crew’ is still the best hymn of praise to the hardest working people in the industry, it’s passion shining brightly as it tells the tales of a thousand nights, the Leeds recording including an aside from Clarke to the sound engineer.
The closing salvo of ‘Bomber’ and ‘Motorhead’ (“just in case you forget who we are”) couldn’t be louder or better, the set perfectly bookended with anthems, but the set is littered with gems. There was certainly a strange magic that the band seemed to have around that time, the aforementioned run of releases turning the band that was potentially only going to last one album before fading into obscurity into bonafide rock giants. ‘No Sleep…’ brought all that together into one seismic disc.
Whilst Lemmy had originally wanted the album to be a double, there was only enough material for three sides of music, putting an end to that hope at the time. Fortunately, this 40th anniversary release corrects this and gives you the full-blooded experience that he would have most certainly approved of.
With the choice of both a three-disc version and this fully expanded edition, complete with hardback book, poster and plectrum you’ll be spoilt for choice. Certainly, there are a lot of repeated tracks here but each has it’s own nuance, the band vibe of the night and the crowd bringing their own certain flavour, a living, breathing whole as both give their all to each other.
The last Motorhead line-up may arguably have been the best, but the fire present here was incredible and the trio were absolutely unstoppable. This is their testimony and it joins the roll call of truly great live albums that every rock fan should have, a towering reminder of a band on peak form, rough and ready as it is. There’s never been a better time to get ‘No Sleep…’
Pre-order No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith here: https://motorhead.lnk.to/nosleep40ID