You all know Michael Monroe right? The Finnish punk rocker and multi instrumentalist, who served as the frontman for Hanoi Rocks from 1979-1985 and again from 2001-2009. You surely do. What you may not know, is that Monroe has carved out an impressive solo career throughout the years as well. On this, his tenth solo studio album, Monroe is on fire.
The opening song is One Man Gang, the title track, and it’s a short but sweet, frantic punk rock frenzy of a track. Catchy and easy to sing along to. There’s a real fist pumping vibe here, and a killer guitar solo. Monroe sounds great with a bit of an aged quality giving his voice extra depth, and the lead guitar from guest, Captain Sensible, is fantastic.
I do find it funny, that an album titled “One Man Gang” features a photo of five people. That’s a bit of a head scratcher.. but I’ll go with it.
Last Train to Tokyo is more of a straight ahead rock number, and has the most in common with Monroe’s musical output with Hanoi Rocks. The music is full of infectious grooves and hooks. I’m sure I’ll overuse the word catchy within this review, but I can’t help it.
Some incredibly fat bass guitar ushers in Junk Planet, a track that is dripping with sleaze rock goodness – actually, I could see this as an Iggy Pop number. The guitars are perfect, and the use of harmonica is fantastic. This is the high point of the record for me.
Midsummer Nights sees Monroe deliver a style of vocal that’s fairly uncommon within his career. That’s not to say it’s a new weapon, it’s just not something he does often. This is a power pop song, with a hint of sappyness at its core. It’s not bad though, and the ripping guitar solo helps carry it over the line.
The Pitfalls of Being an Outsider is awesome. This is Monroe letting everybody know that he’s quite happy with his career the way it is, and so he should be. He deserves to be a household name, but as the song says, from where he is now “it ain’t a long way to the bottom”.
Original Hanoi Rocks guitarist, Nasty Suicide, turns up on Wasted Years to play lead. Fitting, as Wasted Years was a the name of a Hanoi live record, and a 2010 book. And what a track it is. Hooky, and dare I say it.. catchy!
In the Tall Grass is a more subdued affair – great saxophone flourish at the end though. Black Ties and Red Tape picks the energy right up, with a super fast and bouncy feel, while Hollywood Paranoia is a foot stomping swagger.
Heaven is a Free State is the only song of the album that Monroe wrote himself, and features some great mariachi flavoured trumpet from Finnish trumpeter, Teri Saarti. This is very different but no less cool.
Helsinki Shakedown is another Hanoi styled track, and to close out the album, Low Life in High Places is another sleazy rocker with some excellent textures.
One Man Gang is every bit as good as Sensory Overdrive (my personal favourite Monroe album) and sits well within his recent discography.