Hanoi Rocks / Oriental Beat a thing of glorious nostalgia

There was always a bit of a sense of carrying coal to Newcastle when Hanoi Rocks first arrived on the British music scene, the Finnish five-piece full of the swagger of early Rolling Stones. Despite the obvious comparisons, the music press lapped them up, lauding them as the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band since Mick and Keef’s troubadours and causing a ripple of excitement not seen again until Guns N’ Roses ripped things up a few years later.

Hanoi Rocks – Oriental Beat

40th Anniversary Edition – Svart Records

Release Date: 17 March 2023

Words: Paul Monkhouse

Truth be told, whilst Hanoi Rocks had flashes of The Stones, there was a lot of new wave there, and all this was shot through with glam touches, something that the Gunners would also take on, themselves inspired in part by the Fins.

With this writer having seen their Portsmouth Polytechnic show on the first UK tour, their chaotic, loose, alcohol-fuelled performance was the thing of heady excitement, streets away from the comparatively slick and seemingly sober shows of most touring rock and Metal bands at the time.

There was a danger here that mixed the visceral excitement of those other shows with something that walked the tightrope, at one stage guitarist Andy McCoy falling in a heap after walking backwards on the stage only to trip over a crouching roadie, the six-stringer carrying on playing through his laughter.

Hanoi Rocks Kuva Moses (Pekka Soini)
Hanoi Rocks Kuva Moses (Pekka Soini)

Trying to capture this whole live feel on record is an almost impossible mountain to climb, but this 40th-anniversary edition of their 1982 sophomore album tries its best, the tight but loose approach scattered through with a little more structured moments.

Certainly, the opening salvo of Oriental Beat and Motorvatin’ don’t stray from the formula, the gleaming, glammy, punk ‘n’ roll full of nervous energy and short blasts of guitar and sax, but No Law Or Order takes a more Clash-like approach, its cod-reggae stylings a little hit and miss.

Teenangels Outsiders is back to the sloppy, fun rock ‘n’ roll with the chugging Howlin Wolf riff of the Stonesy Sweet Home Suburbia, and a manic, rough-arsed MC Baby redresses the balance. Equally impressive, Don’t Follow Me shows the Fin’s influences from the blues and punk, throwing in a little Phil Spector polish for good measure.

Visitor has a fine, multi-layered New Wave feel. Things sadly dip again with the lifeless Lightnin’ Bar Blues, but the closing pairing of the Link Wray meets Dr Feelgood meets The Doors barroom boogie of Devil Woman and the stark and beautiful piano-led ballad Fallen Star finish the album with a nice flourish.

Michael Monroe and Hanoi Rocks, Oriental Beat
Hanoi Rocks, Oriental Beat Anniversary edition out 17 March 2023

Whilst the band doubtless have their own fanatical following, and the reunion show last year, along with Michael Monroe’s high-octane solo sets, still have the power to thrill, modern listeners to Oriental Beat may find it a bit of a Curate’s Egg in that it’s good in places.

The overall effect is of a band having a good time and trying to bring that raw excitement back to rock ‘n’ roll but with punk a slowly fading memory and both Hair Metal and Thrash on the horizon, it somehow attempts to catch that zeitgeist but just falls a little short.

Hanoi Rocks will always be a classic cult band, but they were destined never to truly breakthrough in the way they could have, and it took a while to find their writing groove, their back catalogue is littered with a few gems that have now become classics.

Their light thrown into shadow by those they inspired, Hanoi Rocks deserved better. This album is a thing of glorious nostalgia rather than a classic, yet still worthy of checking out.

Sleeve Notes

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