Friday, September 14, 2007

Review: Hanoi Rocks - Street Poetry

Label: WolfGang Records

Released: September 3, 2007

There really are far too many bands still lingering around from the hair band heyday of the late 80s. It seems like every time I turn around, there's another one releasing an album that tries to recapture the days when they were more popular than they ever deserved to be or touring to cash in on nostalgia for the days when it was cool to be dumb. When I saw that Hanoi Rocks had a new album, I feared that they would be no different. What I found is that not every band from those days is washed up and cashing in. Over a quarter century since their first album, Hanoi Rocks sounds as fresh as ever.

One thing that really makes them stand out is their underlying pop sense. Their songs are as gritty as the best the genre has to offer, but under that grit, there are hooks. These aren't Mutt Lange or Desmond Child hooks either. These are the kind that come out of a real band that knows itself. Better still, none of them is a great player, but they don't cover it up with slick production. Instead, they wear their lumps for all to see and their genuine nature gives these songs a depth that their contrived peers, with all their formulas for success, can't touch. Even better yet, they don't just stick to the standard hard rock framework. They reach back to the original glam bands of the 70s, throw in great pop and soul and even hints of funk and Western at times and the album has greater texture for it without abandoning the core sound.

Unlike so many bands where the individual players tend to show off at the expense of the songs themselves, Hanoi Rocks makes every note count. They play as a band in the truest sense of the word. You can hear it, amond many places, in the solo in "Hypermobile." It's simple, yet interesting. Most importantly, it's concise, never for a moment being about the player instead of the song.

The liner notes contain the common "no synthesizers" disclaimer, but on Street Poetry, Hanoi Rocks goes beyond just avoiding synthetic instruments, they avoid being synthetic. The title track, when taken along with the story of the street poet in the notes, is touching and the song really brings that to life. Rather than write about parties and chicks, they take on some serious, very human subject matter. They leave their own truth on the table and that lets them get away with song titles like "Teenage Revolution" and "This One's for Rock n Roll." Had the album not gained my trust, I would likely have dismissed both songs on their titles alone. What's with this "teenage" thing? These guys are well into their 40s! However, because they made me take it seriously, I found that "Teenage Revolution" is really talking seriously to kids, not about them or at them. Had they not established that this album has a heart, I might have missed that.

There are a few tracks that border on filler toward the end, but they only stick out because the rest moves forward with purpose and honesty. While they jump out of the gate with the opener, "Hypermobile," they tie the album up neatly with "Fumblefoot and Busy Bee," more of an epilogue than a song in its own right. It's a bit different than the bulk of Street Poetry, but as such provides the perfect closing.

With only two original members and being so far from Hanoi Rocks' heyday, there is every reason to bet against Street Poetry, but don't take that bet, because it, unlike the album, is a loser.

Rating: 8/10



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Blogger Hard Rock Hideout said...

I hope my copy shows up soon. I am anxious to hear this now.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

I will review this one early next week. I'll just say that I agree with you for the most part and probably like it even more than you do. I hate to say it, but I think the fact that their original run was cut short before they got big may have something to do with why Monroe and McCoy are still the real deal. They never truly became big, so for the most part they have stayed fairly true to the style they started.

6:53 PM  
Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Wow, impressive. I want to check it out.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Allyson said...

I've had this disc for a month now and haven't had time to really give it a listen just yet.

Hopefully soon and I'll post a review at that time.

I doubt I'll like it as much as Two Steps from the Move, but then it's hard to top that.

Allyson B. Crawford

3:40 PM  

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