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Back to Basics

It gets really good on Page 190, where Tommy Lee explains how to properly do a telephone interview after a night of blasting one’s brains with whiskey and "zombie dust," a mix of Halcion and cocaine that keeps the body sentient and the brain anything but.

"If necessary to puke during interview, cover receiver with hand and puke on floor," the Mötley Crüe drummer explains helpfully. "If there are people passed out on the floor, try not to get any on them.

"If interview is longer than 15 minutes, roll over and (urinate) off the edge of the bed closest to the corner of the room. Continue interview."

And so an average day on the road begins — or at least it used to — for the dudes in the Crüe, as laid out in "The Dirt," the band’s debauched, drug-addled, imminently readable biography, which is marinated in enough blood, sweat and beers to leave you with a hangover by the time you’re through with the second chapter.

"The Dirt" is the loose basis for the Crüe’s latest disc, "Saints of Los Angeles," their first studio album in more than 10 years.

It’s a Horatio Alger tale on heroin, a rags to riches story where four id-driven misfits go from nothing to something and nearly lose their lives in the process — in the case of bassist Nikki Sixx, he actually did die at one point, OD’ing on smack and coke before eventually being resuscitated.

It all forms a suitably gritty, filth-encrusted backdrop for the return of the Crüe, and it helped foster a back-to-basics approach for the band on its new record.

"Me and Mick (Mars, guitarist) had a very easy conversation, we started writing songs, and it was like, ‘What do you think?’ " Sixx recalls during a teleconference with journalists before the start of the band’s current tour, the multiband Crüe Fest. "And Mick just said, ‘I wanna hear a lot of guitars, and I wanna hear snotty lyrics.’ And I was like, ‘That’s exactly where I’m coming from, dude.’ I don’t want loops and samples and beats. I don’t want to be Nine Inch Nails or Rage Against the Machine. I don’t want to be overthought and overprocessed. We just want to sound like Mötley Crüe. And that’s what we did."

These dudes may have gotten older, but, judging by "Saints," they certainly haven’t matured all that much — and who would really want them to?

The Crüe is all about suspended adolescence, about reveling in every teen boy’s primal urges — girls, good times, repeat — and little else.

And from its first notes, "Saints" sounds like an album penned by some bored, disgruntled class cut-up while stuck in detention. "I wanna make a lot of money, but I don’t wanna go to school," singer Vince Neil wails on opening salvo "Face Down in the Dirt." "I don’t wanna get a real job, I don’t wanna be you."

The rest of the album is similarly puerile — sample song titles: "Mother(expletive) of the Year," "White Trash Circus" — in all the right ways, with lots of rubber-layin’ guitars high up in the mix and Neil’s 80-proof yowl sounding as oversexed as ever.

You don’t go to Scores to debate the merits of Tolstoy, and you don’t toss on a Crüe record for anything other than lurid thrills and lots of regrettable decisions that this bunch has been kind enough to make for you — even the album art kicks sand in the eyes of the prudish, with a collection of nude women posed into a crucifix and the band’s initials.

As such, it should come as little surprise that, after some 25 years together, the band is still raising hackles. Before a scheduled gig in Sarnia, Ontario, a few weeks back, a local councilman decried the Crüe as pornographic and urged the city to refuse to allow the band to play in town.

"People are always out to attack rock ‘n’ roll," Sixx snorts. "God bless them, man. They keep our name in the press and reignite our passion to basically hold up the middle finger to these types of people who really don’t understand at all. If that’s how these people have to get a little press for themselves, we’ll help them out. We’ll tell them to (expletive) off onstage."

Occasionally, that intensity spills off the stage as well, with the Crüe having a well-documented history of inner-band turmoil — particularly between Neil and Lee — that has sidelined the band at times. It looked like this could happen again last year, when Lee intimated that he was finished with the Crüe when tensions simmered between Lee’s then-manager and the rest of the band.

"He had a manager that the band had to sue, and he settled out with the band," Sixx says. "We chose to just sort of move on. I think Tommy saw what that guy was doing, and the band has taken a settlement and is now focusing on the music."

Besides, after having beaten death and drugs, and money and women woes, they’ve learned how to come to terms with the most lethal addiction of them all: each other.

"That was a long, long time ago. We were kids, and stuff changes," Sixx says of any acrimony in the band. "When you get the other managers out of the way, all those other people out of the way, the band gets along just fine. That’s the biggest problem, so hopefully, that’s all taken care of. Now, we can just focus on being a rock band."

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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