TWELVE SHOTS ON THE ROCKS – Hanoi Rocks (Liquor and Poker)
ANOTHER HOSTILE TAKEOVER – Hanoi Rocks (Major Leidin)

As the New York Dolls begot Hanoi Rocks, so then did Hanoi Rocks begot Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue, both of whom “borrowed” their hookeresque fashion sense and liberal use of ozone layer-depleting hair tonics from the scruffy street urchins from Finland then opportunistically, unapologetically, and quite enthusiastically stole their thunder just as they were poised for world domination.

Shortly after the release of their 1984 major label debut, “Two Steps From The Move,” drummer Razzle was dropped off at the wooden Waldorf in his own personal hot rod to hell chauffeured by the Crue’s Vince Neil, which tore the band asunder, seemingly forever, despite staggering on for a short time with ex-Clash drummer Terry Chimes.

After the fall, a few members soldiered on bravely and resolutely in outfits like The Cherry Bombz and The Suicide Twins and singer Michael
Monroe (nee Matti Fagerholm) released several quite respectable solo albums, but (sigh…) none of it came within sniffing distance of anything
the band created during its salad days.

Back in 2003, seemingly out of nowhere, “Twelve Shots On The Rocks” suddenly dropped, with only Monroe and guitarist Andy McCoy (nee Antti Hulkko) back in the fold from the glory years line-up which also included Nasty Suicide (Jans Stenfors), Sam Yaffa (Sami Takamaki), and Gyp Casino (Jesper Sporre). Forget all you’ve heard about never being able to go back because despite a few brief moments of melancholy/regret/sadness which don’t really cost them any points sonically, this one easily rubs shoulders with ANYTHING the band uncorked during their prime, a brace of songs so honest you’d trust them to babysit the kids.

Apparently the tour of duty McCoy served with Iggy Pop, chronicled in Alvin Gibbs’ tell-all tour diary “Neighborhood Threat,” had no lasting effect
despite what Gibbs describes as a rather copious amount of drug hoovering by the six-string pirate. McCoy remains the straw that stirs the Hanoi
Rocks cocktail despite at times resembling an obituary waiting to be written. It’s impossible to imagine this reunion materializing and actually mattering to anyone even remotely interested (that would be, uh, me) without both him and Monroe on board.

Plenty of high points fully deserving of notice here, most of them the type of soaring, resonant, over-the-top anthems Monroe and McCoy (with the
occasional assist from Jude Wilder) have an uncanny knack for, from the Hooplesque (at least to these ears) “Delirious” and “Lucky” to the soulful
menacing swagger of “New York City.” Monroe’s star remains bright, oozing equal amounts danger and sleazy charm from every pore, as comfortable with the full gallop of “Obscured” and “”A Day Late, A Dollar Short” as he is with the closest thing you’ll get to introspection on a Hanoi Rocks album -
“In My Darkest Moment” and “Designs On You.”

And in the grand tradition of inspired covers of the past like “Up Around The Bend” and “Lightning Bar Blues,” Monroe, McCoy, and new members
Costello (guitar), Timpa (bass), and Lacu (drums) positively shimmer on Moon Martin’s “Bad News” and celebrate life while stomping the shit out of
Willie Deville’s “Are You Lonely Tonight.”

“Another Hostile Takeover,” released earlier this year, seems a little more forced than “12 Shots,” not as well lubricated, missing some of the hip swivel and sway Monroe and McCoy normally exhibit, but don’t blame new recruits Conny Bloom (guitars) and A.C. Christell (bass); their names aren’t listed on the owner registration.

A credit for “beats and styles” in the liner notes to two guys with the same first name – “DJ” - throws up an immediate red flag that Hanoi Rocks may be ditching the girl they brought to the prom. Those beats show up on “Reggae Rocker,” an embarrassing, stuttering, failed experiment/foray into hip hop with Monroe attempting to rock the mic and urging listeners to clap their like trained seals. “Talk To The Hand” is another clunker, a prime example of why it’s never wise to base a song entirely around an irritating bit of hip hop street slang that sounded tired about the second time your little sister used it. Oh, and it sounds like post-addiction Aerosmith. God help us all…

Mercifully, though, these are just blips and the rest of the album finds the band re-discovering their stride, er, stagger. “Love” distills, in just 2:33, everything that once made them special; barrelhouse piano, a blathering yet spirited Monroe vocal, and solid, chop-blocking guitar from McCoy. “Eternal Optimist,” “You Make The Earth Move,” and “Better High,” all benefiting from a dash of good old-fashioned Hanoi Rocks drama, would fit comfortably slotted anywhere in the track listings of latter day albums in the band’s canon like “Back To Mystery City” and “Two Steps From The Move.”

Full marks all around to whoever decided to cover Phil Lynott’s “Dear Miss Lonely Hearts.” They nail it. Somewhere Phil is smiling.Hanoi Rocks still seems to defy categorization and there’s still more to this band than meets the eyeliner; they eschew flashy guitar licks, macho posturing, and dissing the competition in favor of saxophones, a revved-up, almost poppy twin-guitar attack which treads a fine line between punk and lewd blues, and hook-driven songwriting. Thankfully, the 20-year piss break these guys took has done nothing to change their modus operandi much,
prompting a sigh of relief from this scribe that was probably audible in Mortdale.- Clark Paull

1/4 - 12 Shots On The Rocks

1/2 - Another Hostile Takeover