Monday, May 20, 2013

Hanoi Rocks - Back to Mystery City

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Back to Mystery City, the third studio album from the Finnish rock band Hanoi Rocks. This May of 1983 release peaked at number 87 on the UK charts. It was produced by Dale Griffin and Pete Watts, former members of Mott the Hoople. This was the first album by the group featuring Razzle (Nicholas Dingley) on drums.

Side one begins with “Strange Boys Play Weird Openings”. This less than a minute acoustic piece, with a bit of a Renaissance Fair sound, is something that guitarist Andy McCoy was playing around with in the recording studio.

“Malibu Beach Nightmare”, which celebrates hanging out in the California sun, was released as the first single. Michael Monroe does double-duty here, on the lead vocals as well as the saxophone. One of the drum riffs reminds me a bit of the Ramones’ “Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio” from 1980.

“Mental Beat”, with its steady tempo, is about the pounding inside your head after taking methamphetamines, drugs commonly known as speed.

“Tooting Bec Wreck” got its inspiration from a London apartment in Tooting Bec where the band lived. The song’s protagonist is so whacked out on drugs he can’t tell if he’s coming or going. The opening with all the animal sounds helps set the weird tone for this one.

The second single was “Until I Get You”, a song that goes back to the band‘s punk/glam-rock roots. It features Morgan Fisher on keyboards and Miriam Stockley (who has sung with Pink Floyd) on backing vocals. The lyrics focus on an unhealthy obsession over someone.

Side two starts with “Sailing Down the Tears”, a song that McCoy has said took him all of ten minutes to write. The mid-tempo song has a 70‘s pop-rock sound.

With its sleazy and grinding groove, “Lick Summer Love” sparked some controversy due to its upfront discussion of sex with a young virgin.

“Beating Gets Faster”, one about being content in life when you’re in love, is next.

“Ice Cream Summer” is a song about a seasonal romance with a woman named Rosalita that ended in heartbreak.

The title track “Back to Mystery City” closes the album. This song, inspired by a London nightclub, is a bit similar composition-wise to “Mony Mony” by Tommy James and the Shondells. It even features a strong surf-rock drumbeat.

I got into Hanoi Rocks about four years ago when I was looking for something to download on month on emusic. I remembered maybe one or two songs by the band from the early days of MTV and decided to give their first two albums a shot. I rather enjoyed them. For my review of Hanoi Rocks 1982 album Oriental Beat, click here.

Back to Mystery City is one of the early albums by the band that is tougher to track down. Be forewarned: if you listen to what they have on Spotify or on iTunes you will not be hearing the correct tracks; they have a number of them - tracks 4 through 8 - as completely mislabeled. Some are not even songs from this album. I compared the song durations and lyrics I found online to what plays from these two source and concluded they are very wrong. Your best bet is vinyl or CD, or looking for specific tracks on YouTube (which is what I did to finish up this review).

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