On the opening song of Hanoi Rocks' first new album in nearly 20 years, lead singer Michael Monroe sings "the best kept secret in rock and roll, harder they come harder they fall." How best to sum up the career of Hanoi Rocks, the world's greatest unknown rock band?
Hanoi Rocks made it's way all the way from independent success in Scandanavia, and was on the edge of superstardom in the early 80s with a major label release under their belts, when it all came crashing down around them. Perhaps you remember the drunk driving crash of Motley Crue's Vince Neil? Well, killed in that car accident was none other than Razzle, the drummer of Hanoi Rocks. Needless to say, the band was devastated, and soon dissolved after a few false re-starts. But that was not the end.
Fast forward 20 years, and we now see original members Monroe and guitarist Andy McCoy taking another shot, on the rocks. What's amazing to me is how fresh and full of vitality this recording has. It's almost as if the past 20 years hadn't happened, and the band was just releasing it's followup to 1984's Two Steps From The Move. Imagine that hair metal is at it's pinnacle, and this is the band on top.
The tracks here just rip, and it's easy to see why Axl Rose gives credit to Hanoi Rocks as an important catalyst for the dual guitar bar blues of G-N-R. Highlights include the biting crunch of Whatcha Want, a song that swaggers with the biggest pout glam rock can offer. People Like Me pokes fun at the "Behind The Music" mentality of MTV and the rest of the music media, while Delirious is a self-deprecating tear which spouts off with rebellious abandon.
By far, the best track of the album is New York City, a perfect Hanoi Rocks song which reflects the songwriting of their early days. It pouts and preens in full glam, all while conjuring up the down and dirty images of a New York City rock club. This song is a perfect example of why Hanoi Rocks survived all these years with a dedicated underground cult following, even though they no longer existed. Not many bands can do that, and not many bands can come back and make one of the best records in their career.