The Cassette Chronicles – U.D.O.’s ‘Mean Machine’


The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

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U.D.O. – MEAN MACHINE (1989)

The second album from U.D.O. saw a host of lineup changes surrounding singer Udo Dirkschneider. These changes didn’t seem to slow the band down though as the opening track on Mean Machine, “Don’t Look Back”, blows out of the speakers and is relentlessly aggressive throughout the song’s running time.

“Break The Rules” starts off a little slow in the first lyrical verse. But it picks up into a more explosive song once the second verse starts. Speaking of lyrics, the song “We’re History” is a rather unrepentant vicious response to a breakup. While it is pretty obviously leaning towards it being a guy’s point of view, it can actually be used by either men or women who aren’t sorry to get rid of someone out of their life. “Painted Love” is another fast-paced rocker giving the first side of the album a pretty solid foundation to start. 

Sadly, the album’s title track closes the first side and, despite it being another rocker, there’s something about the song that felt off. It left me cold while listening to it. I can’t put my finger on why but this song just seemed to fit together completely for me.

The band’s first album was Animal House (which I wrote about a few weeks ago) and according to the liner notes for that album, the members of Accept did the majority of the songwriting for it. On Mean Machine, the songwriting was left to Udo and cohorts. This might account for why there seemed to be a bit more in the way of weaker material on this particular release.

Side Two starting off strong with “Dirty Boys” and “Streets on Fire”, two more straight up rockers. But “Lost Passion” was purely filler material, better left in the archives than released. The sole ballad track on the album was actually interesting. That alone surprised me, but the use of the piano on “Sweet Little Child” gave a bit more of a dramatic feel to it. 

The album closed out with a track, “Still In Love With You”, is just 49 seconds long but it isn’t even really a song. It’s just a compilation of random sounds and a complete waste of time.

When the songs are on point and tightly constructed, Mean Machine rocks hard and fast. But the inclusion of what can only be seen as weaker material means that the album has just as many low points as high ones. It left me with a bit of harsher opinion on the album as a whole, considering how strong I consider the band’s later material. The album is fine to listen to, but I don’t think that I’ll be revisiting it too often since I have better albums from U.D.O. to spin instead.

NOTES OF INTEREST: The album got reissued on CD in 2013 with a bonus live track for the song “Break The Rules” as well as the official video for the same song.

The cover concept for the album is credited to Deaffy, who was credited for the lyrics on many of Accept’s early songs. It was later revealed that Deaffy was a pseudonym for Gaby Hoffman, the wife of Accept guitarist Wolf Hoffman. She’s credited with songwriting on U.D.O.’s 1991 album Timebomb as well.

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