With hero status guaranteed due to his tenure in Hanoi Rocks, Michael Monroe’s only real problem has been in getting enough punters interested in his studio work to give him a hit record. He should have done it with Sensory Overdrive (this magazine’s Album of the Year in 2011). Or with Horns And Halos (2013) or 2015’s Blackout States.
Now, after a four-year interval, he tries again, with hope – like the fountain of youth he washes in each day – gushing from every track. Like the previous album this was recorded and mixed in Finland by Petri Majuri, and continuity is further maintained by using the same band – Rich Jones and Steve Conte on guitar/vocals, Sami Yaffa on bass and drummer Karl Rockfist.
As Monroe has never been a prolific writer, he’s smart to retain those two guitarists, who support him in the same way Andy McCoy did in the Hanoi Rocks days. Jones, originally drafted into Monroe’s touring band in 2010, now assumes the musical kingpin role, writing seven of the 12 here and co-writing three of the others with Conte.
Both guitarists clearly “get” Monroe on a deep, personal level and provide him with the riffs and rebel anthems to support his proud boast: “I do what I do and I’ll never change”. Yet they move the furniture around enough to keep things fresh.
Jones’ title-track One Man Gang (with Captain Sensible on lead guitar) is an express-train rocker with a gang-vocal chorus. Conte’s Junk Planet sounds like it was beamed down from Planet Iggy. And their joint effort Last Train To Tokyo – perhaps the most Hanoi Rocks-like song here – is so Michael Monroe it’s almost impossible to believe he didn’t write it.
In the middle order the quality barely dips with Black Ties And Red Tape (another punk-fast thrasher), Hollywood Paranoia and Helsinki Shakedown (both seemingly deliberate Hanoi homages/pastiches) and Heaven Is A Free State: the one song Monroe wrote himself, alone, featuring one Tero Saarti on Mariachi trumpet.
Elsewhere all the expected boxes are ticked… Nasty Suicide turns up to play lead on (all those) Wasted Years (the 1984 Hanoi Rocks live album, the 2010 book and – finally! – the song).
There’s a delicious 70s bubblegum pop chorus on Midsummer Nights. And Monroe blows a mean sax at the end of In The Tall Grass.
One Man Gang is no better or worse than any of his previous three albums. It’s also as good as any by the band that made him famous. Is it enough? It certainly would be if you flash your cash.
Michael Monroe: One Man Gang
The ninth solo album from rock'n'roll legend and former Hanoi Rocks mainman Michael Monroe. The album was recorded and mixed by Petri Majuri at E-Studio in Sipoo, Finland, in March last year, and features a guest appearance by The Dammed's Captain Sensible on the album's 1000mph title track.