Back in Spandex

What does Mötley Crüe sound like with former Ozzy Osbourne drummer Randy Castillo beating the skins instead of Tommy Lee? As gloriously stupid as ever, that's what. There's no change to the basic Mötley Crüe sound on New Tattoo, the group's first since 1997's Generation Swine: glam-metal riffs from guitarist Mick Mars, thundering bass from Nikki Sixx, high-pitched "singing" from Vince Neil and ready-steady-go drumming from Castillo, who's every bit as solid a player as Lee. If the only thing holding you back from picking this up is Lee's absence, you're going to need another reason to avoid this album.

Not that there aren't plenty of other reasons lying around. Sure, trashing the Crüe for their subject matter is almost too easy, but that's only because they gleefully provide up such inviting targets. Actually, it's kinda creepy to hear Vince Neil screeching about an "underage angel" whose "box started buzzing ever since she heard the Crüe" on "She Needs Rock 'n' Roll" (RealAudio excerpt). At this point in their (can it be?) forty-ish lives, the only thing these Sunset Strip survivors should want from a girl under 18 is an extra packet or two of ketchup with their drive-thru order. As for the rest of the lyrics, let's just say that, with song titles such as "Hell on High Heels," "Treat Me Like the Dog I Am" and "Porno Star," what you read is what you get.

There are also a batch of grumpy tunes to show that the group still hasn't gotten over the fact that grunge booted them right off the charts. "1st Band on the Moon" finds them wanting to blast into outer space because Earth girls aren't easy (to rock) anymore. "Fake" is a slinky record-industry-kiss-off whose glorification of car crashes, starlets and drug abuse — all on the tab of their ex-label — would seem to indicate that the Crüe never watched their own episode of "Behind the Music." And who knows what to make of the cover of the Tubes' "White Punks on Dope" (RealAudio excerpt)? Given their history, it just seems in bad taste. Then again, that is the point, yes?

Still, "White Punks on Dope" does musically crunch in the all the right places — as, admittedly, do the bulk of the songs on this album. New Tattoo is filled with arena-sized, testosterone-fueled tracks that will no doubt sound best when stuffing money down someone's G-string or making devil horns with your fingers in darkened hockey arenas. Sure, they all sound familiar, but only "Punched in the Teeth by Love" sticks out as a clear-cut recycle of "Looks That Kill" mixed with "Too Fast for Love." As for the Crüe's, um, softer side, the title track and "Hollywood Ending" (RealAudio excerpt) are near-perfect power ballads, definitely in the same sweaty ballpark as "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" and "Home Sweet Home."

All in all, New Tattoo isn't half-bad. Then again, it isn't half-good either. And, if only to remind us that they paved the way for Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit and Blink-182 to hang with strippers and porn queens, it's amusing to have Mötley Crüe back in action.