Music News

Addiction and Subtraction

Reading lengthy excerpts from Nikki Sixx's memoir, The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star (out September 18 from First MTV Books/Pocket Books), and listening to its accompanying soundtrack by his band Sixx: A.M. (out now on Eleven Seven Music) is like running up to the scene of some horrible accident. At first, it's intriguing — something inexplicably fucked-up has happened, we want to see the shit running in rivers, we want to be moved by or empathize with the drama and the dregs, maybe we want to try to help. But once you've gone too far, once you actually barrel through the smoke to get to the people with the shredded flesh screaming amid the shattered glass, that's enough. It's just too much. And anymore, unfortunately, it's just too common.

We start with Sixx, on Christmas '86, spiraling into heroin- and cocaine-induced paranoia (always high, always hiding in his closet with needles and guns), while regaling us with tales of how former Prince backup singer Vanity answered the door "naked, with her eyes going around in her head," or the time he found a bag outside his dealer's house and shot it up, only to find out later it was brown sugar. His excesses are well laid-out; his salvation is more obscure — this is, after all, just "a year" in the life of "shattered rock star" Sixx. And while each man's hell is his own, Sixx's story (man becomes rock star, rock star becomes junkie, junkie becomes madman, madman becomes reborn) has been played out on stages since the birth of rock 'n' roll. Often it has a different, more tragic ending (madman becomes overdose or suicide victim), but the seedy street to that fork in the road is the same. Sixx just dug deeper potholes.

After reading with images of Sixx slam-dancing through our heads — huffing and puffing and blowing a mountain of cocaine on the floor (on purpose), or shooting whiskey right into his arm, or dying — it gets to be no fun real fast. We don't want to give away the book's ending, but Nikki Sixx lives. We even have the new soundtrack to prove it.

Surprisingly, The Heroin Diaries soundtrack contains some of Sixx's most solid songwriting ever, rivaling some of his best chops from Mötley Crüe's early and middle years, and definitely blowing away anything the Crüe's done for the past decade and a half. Songs like "Van Nuys" and "Pray for Me" pulse with stripper beats and low vocal harmonies on the verses, then explode into power chords and pleas on the choruses.

Other tracks, like the first single, "Life Is Beautiful," hammer along on hard beats and zigzag rock riffs before marching into a screaming twin guitar solo. The lyrics mirror the memoir, so every harrowing song here is about addiction and/or redemption. While people might dig a heroin concept album for the first few songs, it'd be hard to keep listening without some musical merit.

Thankfully, Sixx seems to have catchy, well-wrought songs in spades here. If he keeps this up, maybe someday he could write a book totally debunking the notion that musicians make better music on drugs.

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea