Album Review: Hanoi Rocks – Oriental Beat (40th Anniversary)

Album Review: Hanoi Rocks – Oriental Beat (40th Anniversary)
Reviewed by Dan Barnes

Dubbed by some as the “re(al) mix” and by vocalist, Michael Monroe, as “the longest and slowest album project ever", finally, Hanoi Rocks’ sophomore album, Oriental Beat, is being resurrected into the rock monster the band always knew that it was. Only didn’t have the wherewithal back then to realise their ambition.

Originally referred to as “the worst sounding album of our career” and with a producer who “didn’t have a clue what he was doing” the band soldiered on until they ran out of money. Missing Master Tapes and general dissatisfaction with sound could have derailed the Rocks’ momentum but stronger wills prevailed, and the band have finally been able to recreate Oriental Beat as the rock monolith it deserves.

In revisiting Oriental Beat, the Rocks have revamped the running order, giving the long-time listener a fresh experience with the record. Now kicking off with the title track, it’s straight into the sleazy rock riffs and abrasive punk attitude, lifted from the New York Dolls’ playbook, the Finns instantly create the soundtrack to debauchery, proving themselves to be dangerous a full five years before Guns N’ Roses would appear.

Original opener, Motorvatin’ is dropped down the batting order but that doesn’t diminish its impact as a fine companion piece to the preceding tune. No Law or Order comes over like The Clash, circa London Calling, while Teenangels Outsiders revels in the glam punk, all anchored by a rock-solid rhythm section.

Album Review: Hanoi Rocks – Oriental Beat (40th Anniversary)

It’s reasonable to wonder, listening to Oriental Beat, how Hanoi Rocks didn’t go on to world domination. Okay, so the original mix of this record was suspect, but here is a collection of musicians absolutely at ease with the material.

Whether that be the irresistible swing of Sweet Home Suburbia or the driving beats of MC Baby and Don’t Follow Me, the band are able to blend full on hard rockers with unconventional instrumentation throughout. Back in the early Eighties you rarely heard a rock band adding saxophone or harmonica to their sounds, yet the Rocks pulled it off with aplomb.

In among the bubble gum sleaze you will find moments of darkness; Visitor sounds as though it has evil intentions as it bathes in The Damned vibes, while closing Fallen Star is a lone piano sounding like a wounded soul.

Thankfully, Devil Woman isn’t a Cliff Richard cover, rather it’s a solid rocker, yet Lightnin’ Bar Blues is a cover, but of the Hoyt Axton 1971 track (Axton would go on to play Billy Peltzer’s dad in the film Gremlins – just in case it comes up in a pub quiz).

Otherwise, Andy McCoy wrote all of the songs, with occasional help from Michael Monroe, and played guitar with fellow six sting slinger, Nasty Suicide. Sam Yaffa and Gyp Casino provide the foundation and Monroe the voice, harmonica and saxophone. All five members put in a shift and there is not a single moment of weakness to be heard anywhere on this record.

With the band finally able to point to Oriental Beat as the album they wanted to create it’s as good a time as any to check it out and see what good old fashioned hard rock was all about when I was but a lad.

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