HANOI ROCKS ‘Oriental Beat’ (Johanna Records JHN 2063)
This is Hanoi Rocks’ second album and quite a tasty affair it is too. Opener ‘Motorvatin’ has a great bass hook and glorious Billy Idol-style vocals. The logical extension of Gen X’s ‘Valley Of The Dolls’ (wherein they stopped playing silly buggers and started playing Metal), it pretty much sets the tone for the album. Indeed, the final track excepted, the songs are largely variations on a single theme (sex and drugs) with heavy bass, sultry vocals, strangely subdued guitar, interesting saxophone breaks and surprisingly cogent lyrics from guitarist Andy McCoy. ‘Fallen Angel’, though, is the album winner. A slow piano and Mike Monroe’s soulful, broken voice, the end result Is a very poignant track. ‘Oriental Beat’ shows potential ripe and ready for some full blown hype. Shame they had to spoil it with such a tacky cover.
HANOI ROCKS, Greyhound, Fulham
The Greyhound fills with a bizarre assortment of human flotsam spanning musical genres with an almost disturbing abandon. As the muzak stops pumping there descends a reverential hush and five untamed pretty Scandinavian boys steal on to the stage sans fuss or fanfare “Good Evening”,
whispers the impossibly beautiful vocalist Mike Monroe, and suddenly it’s like the flood gates of hades have been unleashed as they tear into ‘Oriental Beat, ripping out chords and scattering them like chaff over the unsuspecting, disorientated punters.
This is loud, this is dirty, this is what rock ‘n’ roll is all about. Pure unadulterated mayhem, the stuff adolescent headbangers’ wet dreams are made of with guitarist Andy McCoy storming about the tiny stage like a speed demented hyena, the appearance of a youth wasted beyond his years masking the dexterity of his fret-work.
Their aural assault is non stop, blistering, from the power of Motorvatin’ to the casual ‘Don’t Never Leave Me’ and the gut-pummelling Tragedy’. The solos are manic, the rhythms granite hard, quite naked, and the vocals battling to be heard over the overwhelming battery of amps, clear and incisive.
“Are You A Sucker,” Monroe leers, pointing a long painted finger towards the flying-V slung low around McCoy’s neck as it begins its screeching, ‘Bad Motor Scooter-esque intro to ‘M. C. Baby’ with all the subtlety of a Harley Davidson across the thorax. Hanoi Rocks offer a brief scorching two song encore which they proceed to maul like a pagan sacrifice, sever auditory jugulars in a frenzy unharnessed brutality and aggression like caged animals tasting blood for the first time.
The band sealed a Japanese recording deal on the strength of this gig and now seem destined to embark on an orgy of worldwide devastation. No excuses, no bullshit. this band MUST be seen.
“ON THE ROCKS”
HANOI ROCKS are not in their rooms, nor are they to be found in me 24-hour bar of the formica-coated Julius Caesar Hotel in Bayswater. Something is wrong — but help is at hand. A pretty receptionist directs me to the ‘Tepidarium’ indoor swimming pool, wherein languish the collective bodies of Hanoi Rocks engaged in a Japanese photo session. The pool, I should note, has been conveniently drained for the occasion.
‘Oh, you’re from Kerrang!?’ guitarist Andy McCoy asks, pushing back his shades, good, we’ll go to my room.” McCoy is not a man used to sunlight. Vocalist Mike Monroe, rapidly becoming a teen-idol in Nippon, follows shortly leaving the rhythm section, guitarist Nasty Suicide, bassist Sammy Yaffa and drummer Gyp Casino to do whatever it is they do when their spokespeople are spoking.
McCoy looks pale and distinctly unhealthy as he lays on his bed, curtain drawn to protect him from the afternoon glare. At 19, rock’n’roIl already seems to have taken its toll. I wonder whether he’s quite prepared for my opening salvo: Why is there a naked woman on the cover of ‘Oriental Beat’?
“It’s topless, not naked. In fact it’s my wife, Anna! It just seemed like good idea, you know?”
OK, but the lyrical content seems a trifle limited, sex and drugs; I probe for a definitive Hanoi Rocks statement of position.
“I’ve got a very positive attitude toward sex, but I get enough of it now, I’m more into drugs …“claims Andy, a taint smite flickering on his lips. How much of this am I willing to believe remains an open question.
‘“Rock’n’roIl lyrics aren’t important anyway,” asserts Mike. “You can’t change the world with lyrics.”
But what about the fans, many of whom in their home country are only young teenagers? Don’t they feel a sense of responsibility to them, after all to some of them they are idols?
“No, we’re not their fathers,’ states Andy. ‘They’re all high-society kids anyway, whose parents spoil them: they want something, their parents buy it. That’s why there are no good bands in Scandinavia, they are so bloody rich’” (I get the feeling I’ve touched on a sensitive nerve). “We started right at the bottom, we didn’t have a thing. I lived with a girlfriend and our drummer had a sweet little mommie who took care of him, but Mike, Sammy and Nasty didn’t have anywhere — just the streets.”
Mike: ‘When we went to Stockholm and were on the streets for about four months, sleeping in corridors and rehearsing every night in a subway station”.
Sounds grisly, didn’t they ever get a proper job?
‘Not a proper job. I cleaned toilets,” Mike reminisces. I couldn’t get a proper job because of my hair and what I look like.”
One could envisage the average Scandinavian being rather taken aback by Hanoi Rocks’ appearance. Did they encounter a lot of hostility on the streets?
“I never go out.” says Andy (the daylight, you remember?), I just lay in bed.”
One way round the problem I suppose.
Mike: “It’s dangerous for us to walk around in Finland, people are very narrow-minded there.”
“The funny thing is,” interjects his partner, “it’s always the ugliest ones who want to pick a tight because they’re so f–king jealous, with a mental problem too, you must have something wrong up there if you want to beat someone up for no reason.” (The man has a point). “We never tried to create an Image, we don’t have to, we ARE like this.”
“All these ugly people who go around London trying to took pretty must have a personality crisis,” declares Monroe. I try to explain that times are difficult for us at the moment having just ended a war.
‘Yeah, yeah, Falklands!” chirps Andy, “it’s crazy! Would have loved to have been down there.”
Oh come an, what, to play a gig?
‘Yeah!” That would certainly have slopped the war.
“That’s really sick!” exclaims Mike with distaste.
Leaving the sociology lesson the conversation steers onto something more musical. The first album production is credited to “The Muddy Twins’, is this a deliberate jibe at Mick’n’Keef, ‘The Glimmer Twins’
“Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha,” quips Mike in staccato fashion. “People kept telling us we played like the Stones, so we put it on there. I mean, I hate the Stones nowadays, the last good album they did was ‘Black and Blue’, everything since then has just been crap!”
“I really think we’re the only rock’n’roll left,” adds Andy, “All sorts of people come to see us because we’re not punk, we’re not Heavy Metal; we play anything, you know, anything we like.”
“Anyway, there’s not another band like us – at least I don’t think so,” and Mike may well be right. On a good night, Hanoi Rocks play with more venom and aggression than a Nick Kemp album review; hi-energy rook with no frills or pretensions. But the Muddy Twins are always the centre of attention, the focal points of the stage show.
What’s their attitude toward the rest of the band?
“Ah, no comment,” says Mike evasively.
“They don’t have anything to say about anything”, scoffs Andy. ‘We ARE Hanoi Rocks on record but……..“ (Yes?) “Hanoi Rocks live is still the five of us. They’re really great guys, me and Nasty used to go to school together.”
Back to the present, what is the next move on the HR front?
“We’re recording a single called ‘Love’s an Injection’,” replies Andy, who then orders Mike to find a cassette player to deluge me with unreleased Hanoi Rocks tracks, amongst them ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Beer and Cigarettes’, both of which will pin you up against the nearest wall and beat you into submission.
Mike: “When we get some money we can buy some clothes,” (he shows me the hole in the knee of his jeans) “and look even better.”
Andy: “I’m really looking forward to getting away from England. It’s so f**king slow!”
Hanoi Rocks are disgustingly good live, the output on vinyl quite unable to capture the glorious mayhem in full flight. They should earn enough money to enable Mike to buy a new set at clothes and for Andy not to have to worry if the band broke up tomorrow. “If we broke up tomorrow,” he shrugs with casual nonchalance, “so what?”
“I’m gonna keep on playing till I die.” declares Mike.
Which is how long?
“Today, tomorrow, who cares?”