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All Those Wasted Years

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  • i remember being introduced to hanoi rocks in the late eighties by catching a blurb in rolling stone that axl rose had considered them a major influence and decided to reissue the band’s entire back catalog on cd. while this was noteworthy in itself, some of the album titles in the review were attention grabbers: “bangkok shocks, saigon shakes, hanoi rocks” seemed like a bold name for a debut and painted an air of mystery and exotica around the band. i soon had purchased the entire catalog. although i have long outgrown hard rock, hanoi rocks was an important band for me. it was the first group that i listened to that was under the radar, releasing its entire output on indie labels. it opened me up to the idea that radio was a very limited outlet for interesting music and that the best music was that which required a little bit of investigation to find. michael monroe was beautiful and oozed attitude, a drag queen not intimidated of grabbing the reins for a band that had a lot of musical muscle and real swagger. their debut was unaccomplished but had a spiky, out-of-the-gutter punk attitude that kept the whole endeavor afloat. “village girl” and “stop crying” contained amazing slices of music but were bogged by their kindergarten lyrics. the “oriental beat” album was the point where they started to embellish their music with the sort of exotica in which their name implied. “motorvatin”, “visitor”, “sweet home suburbia”, “no law or order”, and the title track were gloriously diverse and rocked unlike any other glam band before or since. in fact, despite the image, hanoi was not a glam band at all. however, they did use that music as a lens to filter punk, blues, candy pop, and r&b. as for this live album, it starts off killer and then sort of slumps in the middle before delivering a fantastic finale. the opening four song sequence demonstrates that once locked into a groove the band could entertain with inventiveness and precision. the encore of covers at the end are rather faithful to the originals but are done with a hungry vitality that surprises given the band was at the very end of their career trajectory. they decided to call it quits when their drummer, razzle, died in a car crash with a very drunk vince neil. it was a respectable decision and one i stand behind since the musical direction they were heading into with “two steps from the move” was conventional and stripped the band of all the exotica, diversity, and soul that they displayed on their prior releases. unfortunately, these releases are once again out-of-print and the band’s most vital and interesting work is unavailable to dot com and record store browsers.

    Posted on December 20, 2009