On the surface, it would be hard to say that Motley Crue gained anything from breaking ties with lead singer Vince Neil five years ago. At the time, hair metal's baddest bad boys were one of rock's most popular acts. Their then-current CD, Dr. Feelgood, had sold 5.5 million copies, they'd just wrapped up a sold-out arena tour and Elektra had signed them to a $25-million, four-CD deal.
Then came the split, followed by the expected volley of accusations and recriminations. Neil went off on his own, recording two solo efforts that made only a blip on the sales charts. The three remaining members -- drummer Tommy Lee, bassist Nikki Sixx and guitarist Mick Mars -- recruited a new singer, John Corabi, released 1994's Motley Crue and watched as sales dipped considerably.
Then, recently, a chain of events conspired to bring Neil back into the Crue fold. But don't look for the band to voice many regrets. In fact, Neil thinks he benefited by temporarily leaving Motley Crue, adding that now the band is "getting along better. We're tighter, we're on the same wavelength, we're thinking the same."
All four band members admit they never expected to reunite. In fact, Lee, Sixx and Mars had begun work on a second CD with Corabi. That's when the band's future was suddenly thrown into question. Corabi, who has since sued Motley Crue for wrongful dismissal, maintains he was fired. Lee, however, offers a far different account of the situation, saying Corabi was too lazy and "lackadaisical" for the motivated, hard-working Crue. He also hints that the singer was more than a bit unstable emotionally, relating a story in which Corabi confessed that he wasn't really cut out to be a singer. "He goes, 'You know what, Tommy, I'm not really a singer, man. I'm a guitar player,' " Lee says. "I'm sitting there realizing that me and the rest of the guys have just made the biggest mistake on the planet."
Around that same time, a lawsuit pitting Neil against his former bandmates was coming before a judge. At a pretrial hearing, Sixx had a chance to talk with Neil, and the reunion wheels were set in motion. Lee, Sixx and Mars admit that the initial get-together with Neil was awkward. But as the foursome realized that the old musical chemistry was still there, things fell into place. Soon they were working on material for the latest Motley Crue outing, Generation Swine, and making plans to introduce the rejuvenated band to the public.
Sales for Swine, which dabbles in elements of industrial rock and power pop as well as the group's trademark hook-heavy metal, haven't been particularly brisk. Part of the reason, no doubt, is that the split-up alienated many Crue fans. Recapturing their former multiplatinum glory could prove to be a long-term project. So with the current American tour, the band is likely to be rebuilding some bridges -- not only between themselves, but also with their audience.
-- Alan Sculley
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Motley Crue performs at 8 p.m. Sunday, November 9, at the Compaq Center. Tickets are $19 to $35. Cheap Trick opens. For info, call 629-3700.
Jen Trynin -- Hailing from the same soil as Letters to Cleo, Juliana Hatfield and Tanya Donelly, Jen Trynin is yet another installment in the long history of female rockers from Boston. But her pensive, emotionally raw brand of guitar pop isn't run-of-the-mill. The songs on her newest effort, Gun Shy Trigger Happy, pistol-whip the listener with the wrath of a woman scorned, the minimalism of a true poet and the grittiness of an indie-rock guru. While there are inevitable comparisons to be made with other femme fatales such as Liz Phair and Chrissie Hynde, there's no denying that the 33-year-old Trynin offers up accessible treats coated with refreshing trip-hop beats, lo-fi arrangements and juxtaposed whimsy and bitterness. Sure, her music can be a little ragged and her forcefully direct vocals take a little getting used to, but the longer you pay attention, the more you empathize with Trynin's quirks. Guess you could call it the trigger effect. Opening for Paula Cole, Friday, November 7, at Cullen Performance Hall, University of Houston. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 and $22. 629-3700. (Carrie Bell)
Royal Fingerbowl -- These days, when young, ambitious white bands claim to incorporate elements of rock, blues and jazz into their sound, it almost always means trouble for the latter two genres. More often than not, the purer elements of both wind up falling prey to that hippie groove thang. New Orleans's Royal Fingerbowl takes that alleged fusion one step further, claiming they also blend "Tin Pan Alley-esque song craft" and "sardonic wit" into the mix. Whatever the case, Fingerbowl's daffy, rhythm-intensive comfort food for the ears is extremely inventive, highly entertaining and appropriate for thinkers and nonthinkers alike. What's more, the trio's roots are in New Orleans's Faubourg Marigny scene, a loose collective of cafe-type venues on the edge of the French Quarter that caters to the experimental whims of some of the city's best musicians. That, naturally, makes their eclectic aspirations more authentic than most. Opening for G. Love and Special Sauce Friday, November 7, at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak. Tickets are $12. Doors open at 8 p.m. 862-7580. (Hobart Rowland