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Hanoi Rocks Twelve Shots on the Rocks (U.S. version)

By Frank Meyer, Contributing Editor
Friday, January 30, 2004 @ 11:27 AM

(Liquor & Poker Music)

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Anyone who has ever applied hairspray to their teased mane or squeezed on a pair of leather pants knows the name Hanoi Rocks. The now legendary glam band was once know as the new Rolling Stones, the next Aerosmith, Finland's glittery great white hope. They had that Guns N' Roses kinda buzz before Guns N' Roses, know what I mean?

For awhile though, they were known as the band that Vince Neil killed when the Motley Crue singer was charged with vehicular manslaughter for being at the wheel during the accident that killed Hanoi drummer Razzle and left at least 3 others crippled. Then briefly they were known as the band that used to feature Headbangers Ball glam-rock poster boy Michael Monroe. Then they were barely remembered at all...

Recently though, over time, that their legend has grown and they are finally being recognized as the trailblazers, the leaders of the '80s glam movement who did it better, badder and cooler than all their imitators. It took 20 years, but finally the boozing, bloozing swagger of the late, great Hanoi Rocks is beginning to truly be appreciated. And just in time too… 'cause they just happen to be back in action with a vengeance.

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Twelve Shots On The Rocks marks the re-teaming of Hanoi Rocks leaders/chief songwriters guitarist Andy McCoy and Monroe, a union fans thought would never happen. After a heated split following Razzle's death, the self-proclaimed Cosmic Ted and Flashing Psychedelic Kid spent years bashing each other in the press and promising there would NEVER be a reunion. Monroe even told this reporter that he would never ever, under no circumstances work with McCoy again. McCoy was too dangerous, too fucked up and too volatile. Hmmm, seems like exactly the kind of character you want slinging an axe in a cutthroat rock n' roll band, right? Well, Monroe musta wised up 'cause the dynamic duo are back together again and in top form. The only question is where the fuck are guitarist Nasty Suicide and bassist Sam Yaffa?!?!? Well, hell hasn't froze over just yet I guess…

The good news is that Hanoi fans will be pleased as punch as every cut on Twelve Shots On The Rocks is a winner and sounds like it could be off any one of their classic albums. The bad news is that… well, there ain't no bad news! Nope, this is one rockin' album through and through and proves once again that good bands don't die young, they just wait a coupla decades and come back swingin'.

Twelve Shots On The Rocks is the perfect mix of the vintage Hanoi sound and more updated power-punk-metal sound ala contemporaries such as the Backyard Babies or the Hellacopters. Tracks like the dirty "New York City" or the Chuck Berry-on-crack "Lucky" have that immortal Hanoi strut and are every bit as good as anything off Self Destruction Blues or Oriental Beat. "A Day Late A Dollar Short" touches on the pomp new wave vibe the band captured on tunes like "Whispers In the Dark" or "Love's An Injection," while "Gypsy Boots" finds McCoy and Monroe in pure Glimmer Twins mode.

Yet "Whatcha Want" is heavier than anything the band ever did in the past, sounding more like Monroe's post-Hanoi band Demolition 23 (which ironically feature Nasty and Yaffa). "Watch This" also sounds more current, adding some garage rock fuel to the power pop fire. A cover of the Heavy Metal Kids' "Delirious" rounds out the rockers and is a perfect choice, with its snotty charm and chugging riffs.

Just like in the old days, the band slows down the pace a bit too and get a bit misty. A cover of Darryl Hall's epic (yes, you read that right) "Winged Bull" is a fine choice, sounding like the sequel to their own "Million Miles Away." "Designs On You" is a bit more upbeat but just as convincing nonetheless. Co-written by Monroe's now deceased girlfriend Jude Wilder, the song is a personal tale of love on the rocks but could just as easily serve as a poem from Monroe to his fallen love. "In My Darkest Moment" strives for the same touching, gentle spirit but falls a bit short. While the lyrics are heartfelt, they feel less natural, a bit awkward. However, the beautiful sax solo and thrilling McCoy-driven bridge more than make up for any stumbling during the verses.

The U.S. version of the album (which was previously released in Europe and Japan in 2002) is a completely new mix and features several additional tunes. Apparently the band never approved the original mixes and felt they were too polished. The new version sounds a little dirtier, a little meaner, which is the way the Muddy Twins (Mike 'n' Andy) like it. B-sides like the moody "Bad News," the "Oriental Beat-sounding "Moonlight Dance," and the rockin' cover of Mink DeVille's "Are You Lonely Tonight" make this a must for fans who already scored this and need a new lipstick fix.

Monroe is in top form throughout this effort. His sax and harmonica playing are top notch and his voice as strong as ever. His lyrics in particular (aided by McCoy, Wilder and others at times) are razor sharp and his wit in tact. He aims much of his venom at the music industry and scene and goes for the jugular on cuts like "People Like Me" ("Radio and MTV/You need people like me") and "Obscured." When he belts out "You'll never see me fail and you can't make me disappear," you know he means it. And any doubts as to whether McCoy -- the only guitar-slinger to rival Johnny Thunders for hardcore heroin use and live to tell about it -- has still got the fire will be bashed against the rocks as the "Tragedy"-like harmonics of "Obscured" come pouring through the speakers. Just check out the wicked harmony licks on the single "People Like Me" for a taste of that patented McCoy sound. He's got monster chops and can run neck and neck with any current or past guitar hero yet has that Keef/Thunders 'tude that keeps him grounded in sleaze and good taste. Less is more, get it?

So for 12 glorious songs (and one short intro cut) rock n' roll is great again. It's as if all those years of bad metal, phony punk and force-fed MTV bullshit never existed. Like the world stopped in the early '80s just as music got really lame and corporate and everything that was good started to become trite. Back when glam meant Mott the Hoople, not Warrant. Back when a 13-year-old kid's favorite kind of music was actually rock. Back when the Motor City was known as the home of the Nuge, Iggy Pop and MC5, not Insane Clown Posse and Eminem. Back when Finland actually had a shot at producing the world's greatest rock n' roll band. Sounds crazy, huh? It was… it was...

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