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Hanoi Rocks - Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes

Hanoi Rocks
Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes
by Anna Chase at 12 March 2017, 6:59 PM

HANOI ROCKS is not my normal genre of music, I must admit. However, their particular brand of Glam Punk was a refreshing break from my usual repertoire of growling vocals and staccato drumbeats. My first impression of the band was as a very SKID ROW-ish reinvention of the rise of Glam Rock in the U.S. and Europe during the 70’s. “Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes” was their very first album, an ‘81 release, and was reissued with a higher quality during the early 2000’s. Personally, I think this is the group’s strongest album. Nearly every song is catchy, and the album is 36 minutes of pure Rock n’ Roll. What surprised me the most was the fact that I had never heard of HANOI ROCKS. They have the glam look, an incredibly strong first album, and talent, maybe even more than famous Glam Rock acts such as MOTLEY CRUE and POISON. This band is effectively Rock and Roll’s lost child.

Since 2009, when the band broke up for the second time, they have effectively disappeared off the face of the earth. Save for Michael Monroe, who led the band from 1980 onward, most of the members have moved on to other occupations. For example, guitarist Nasty Suicide is now a pharmacist. Go figure. Monroe is still singing, but now performs in a solo act and has released multiple albums, including “Blackout States” in 2015. The band’s fall from the public eye came when they were involved in a tragic car accident where their drummer Nicholas Dingley, a.k.a. “Razzle,” was killed by MOTLEY CRUE’s singer Vince Neil. Neil was arrested for vehicular manslaughter, but was never imprisoned; the band breaking up and reforming multiple times before eventually shutting down in ’09, followed this event.

The opening song, “Tragedy,” opens up with kicking drums and McCoy’s catchy guitar tunes. Monroe’s vocals are scarily reminiscent of a mixture of Keith Richards (ROLLING STONES) and early Billy Idol. Yaffa lays down a meaty bass track underneath the swinging guitars, and establishes a chugging rhythm for the song. Though the drums and bass are not particularly complex, they work well with Suicide and McCoy’s riffs and create a good balance between a dependable background and an interesting overlay of vocals and guitar. The opening of “Village Girl” stood out to me immediately and established the track as the strongest on the album, in my personal opinion. Michael Monroe was undoubtedly the star of the song, and played his vocals perfectly off of Casino’s pounding drums. However, McCoy sweeps in with his sleazy and energetic guitar riffs and competes to steal the show. The infectious chorus of the song was stuck in my head long after “Village Girl” was complete, and despite not being a huge fan of Glam Metal, I found myself listening to this track on repeat.

“Stop Cryin’,” the third track of the album, had a sound that was decidedly evocative of early SEX PISTOLS and POISON. The song was more fast-paced than those previously, but Monroe’s slowed-down vocal isolation around the 2-minute mark provided a much-appreciated contrast in speed. The usage of the saxophone track in the background was intriguing, especially since that particular instrument is rare in the genre. However, that song was easily overshadowed by the bright feel of “Don’t Never Leave Me,” another of my favorite tracks. Monroe’s yelping vocals play off of the bright sound of the rhythm guitar and create a ballad that isn’t in the least bit slow or boring. Andy McCoy’s glimmering solo also provides a bit of technical mastery in what was a fairly simple, but extremely catchy track.

“First Timer” is deliciously sleazy and decidedly reminiscent of a version of THE CLASH. The catchy chorus, coupled with the even catchier drum track, creates a toe-tapping rhythm that evokes a pure 80’s vibe of leather, lipstick, and hairspray. “Cheyenne,” the next track, didn’t impress me all that much as compared to previous tracks. It’s a traditional 80’s song about love, but it didn’t introduce anything I hadn’t heard before. The lyrics seemed a bit clichéd, and the acoustic opening seemed a bit disjointed. However, it’s still a strong track that exemplifies the Glam-Pop sound HANOI ROCKS was going for. Monroe’s classic vocals take center stage yet again, over a typical guitar and drum background.

“11th Street Kids” was another one of my personal favorites. The guitar riffs were clean and bright, while Monroe’s perfectly executed vocals wailed above them. I enjoyed the sound of two voices in this track, which added some much-appreciated depth. The solo was soulful and sing-able, and the drums were fairly simple. However, since the focus of the entire album was mostly on Monroe, who was the band’s clear leader, more complex drums would have detracted from HANOI ROCKS’ catchy Glam-Punk vibe. Though “Walking With My Angel” reinvented a HERMAN’S HERMITS track, and did it well, it seemed a bit out of place in the rest of the album. The musicianship was solid, but alongside the group’s other original songs, a cover seemed weak in comparison. “Pretender,” on the other hand, seemed like a slightly repetitive and anti-climatic conclusion to an album, which was on-par with those by the ROLLING STONES and NEW YORK DOLLS.

However, I was most impressed by the quality of this album for the band’s first release. Sure, the lyrics aren’t deep, but English isn’t the band’s first language and they were primarily focused on creating edgy, catchy Glam Rock that could be released to the masses. It was a “Tragedy” that their career was cut short by an accidental death in the band, but in the community of Glam Metal fans, they are well known for their short-lived but wildly productive career.

Songwriting: 5
Originality: 7
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

3 Star Rating

1. Tragedy
2. Village Girl
3. Stop Cryin’
4. Don’t Never Leave Me
5. Lost in the City
6. First Timer
7. Cheyenne
8. 11th Street Kids
9. Walking With My Angel
10. Pretender
Sami Yaffa- Bass
Gyp Casino- Drums
Nasty Suicide- Rhythm guitar
Andy McCoy- Lead guitar
Michael Monroe- Vocals
Record Label: Johanna Kustannus Records


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Edited 02 February 2023

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