Hanoi Rocks - Back To Mystery City - Review
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critics' view

Once you get past the New Romantic fog/exhaust-poise of a sleeve, on which Andy and Mike appear to have accidentally stumbled onto the set of the Human League's 'Don't You Want Me' video - Mercedes Benz and all - everything is here: punk, summer pop, rock, rockabilly, pure billy, autumnal pop, Nigel again, general lurching things, winter pop and all of this kicked off with a hazy 'are we sure about this?' Medieval instrumental - that's how excited they were to have Mott the Hoople's Dale Griffin and Overend Watts producing this; in Hastings in East Sussex, where old people live and die. 'Strange Boys Play Weird Openings' twitters along nicely until yer lads blast through with the Ramones-aping riffology of 'Malibu Beach Nightmare'. Obviously they'd never actually been to Malibu Beach or anything, nor any beach ever, nor even seen sand, but a beach isn't too hard a concept to summon forth in song; thus 'sun' will always rhyme with 'fun'; and don't forget 'done' and, erm, 'on'. Forgive them - they are from FINLAND. What a terrier this song is: a terrier in a tartan dog-jacket with its granny owner in odd rectangular sunglasses and leopardskin fur coat even though it's spitting with rain. That's Hastings. My own granny used to live just up the road, in Bexhill-on-Sea. Her own coat was beige houndstooth.

Though he (unfortunately) appeared on the sleeve of Self Destruction Blues, this is their first album proper with Nicholas Dingley on drums, whose sexy new Hanoi Rocks handle was 'Razzle', after his favourite pornographic magazine. Probably his favourite magazine full stop. Probably the only magazine he ever managed to open. Razzle wore striped spandex and had a big nose, and quickly became the group's unofficial talisman; useful too since they'd recently relocated to London; more specifically Tooting Bec. As for his drumming, nobody really cares.

So: London, proper producers, a new drummer, some new hats and frilly shirts and a natty red leather outfit for Mr McCoy. The stakes had been raised; though not that much, let's be honest. Have you ever been to Tooting Bec? It's really not very nice. After 'Malibu Beach Nightmare', the album dips with concert-favourite-but-not-mine 'Mental Beat' with its dull football terrace whoahs and the almost entertaining skifflebilly pogo of 'Tooting Bec Wreck' ('I'm a living wreck and I live in Tooting Bec' - that one wasn't in the rhyming dictionary.). These songs are OK but a bit thuggish; there's no magic fairy dust on 'em - they lose the record its perfect ten score - but redemption arrives with the Godlike 'Until I Get You'. If you aren't moved by this swoonsome, fabulous song, you are an emotionless automaton, possibly from Finland.

Side two is where the (wham-bam gang-bang) action is. Side two is faultless. 'Sailing Down the Tears', 'Lick Summer Love', 'Beating Gets Faster', 'Ice Cream Summer', 'Back to Mystery City'. I appreciate this might just look like a meaningless list of shit songs to you, but to those misaligned enough to be in the know, that list is the Finnish Glam rock equivalent of, um, Michelangelo's David, were David to have a nice black hat, some silk scarves and a bit of lippy. And thinner.

Seb Hunter
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