Michael Monroe will be 60 years old this year. That detail might be an ungracious way to begin an examination of his eleventh solo album, but it’s worth noting. For unlike, say, Billy Idol, whose recent Roadside EP suggested that a pathway towards elder-statesman-of-rock grizzle might be opening up, Monroe shows no sign of getting old. Or indeed of ageing at all.
Michael Monroe has made his album again. The one he always makes. The one that’s lost to the thrall of Johnny Thunders and the New York Dolls, Stiv Bators and the Dead Boys, Mott and Alice. And, like the previous 10, you know precisely what it’ll sound like before the first riff has finished buffering. Such albums, where expectation is tempered by experience, live and die on the strength of the songwriting. And on I Live Too Fast To Die Young Michael Monroe has made a very good Michael Monroe album.
There’s one curio on the record. Closing track Dearly Departed is stricken with grief, as Monroe sings of loss and despair over a bed of airy, echoing guitar that sounds like it might have been borrowed from one of Pink Floyd’s bleaker moments. It’s genuinely harrowing.
But elsewhere there’s a big bunch of shakin’ goin’ on. Opener Murder The Summer Of Love kicks things off with a riff as good as any Ron Asheton ever wrote, has a chorus that soars like an escaped weather balloon, and features Monroe singing ‘You wanna revolution, gotta get up off your ass, the counterculture’s fading fast’ with all the righteous vim of youth.
Young Drunks & Old Alcoholics, All Fighter, Pagan Prayer and the title track – which features Guns N’ Roses man Slash on guitar – are similarly feisty, careering along at 100mph without regard for the health or safety of anyone involved, while the pace slows for the somewhat gothic Derelict Palace and the lovely piano ballad Antisocialite.
Most heart-warming is Everybody’s Nobody, which finds Monroe singing of Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square like it’s the winter of 1983 and we’ve all been turfed out of the Marquee, drunken brothers in arms, but don’t worry because the St. Moritz club across the road is still open and mine’s a rum and Coke.
Until producer Rick Rubin straps Monroe to a rocking chair and records him singing wizened, life-weary versions of Malibu Beach and Tooting Bec Wreck, he’ll continue to make albums like this. And boy, let’s hope he does.