Friday, November 18, 2011

Real Life Record Reviews: Michael Monroe and Suzi Quatro

MICHAEL MONROE – Sensory Overdrive (Spinefarm/Universal)

As someone who championed and worked within the genre for a long time, I've got to admit: I've veered quite far from the whole glam-punk thing for some time now. Admittedly, I still always have time for the two bands who created the music to begin with, being the New York Dolls and Iggy And The Stooges, of course. But it should be fairly obvious those bands were the last gasp of Sixties garage rock, given a coat of lipstick for 1970s consumption. However, when it comes to things I still love that followed in those bands' wake – Hanoi Rocks, D Generation, Backyard Babies, The Wildhearts, etc. - I haven't listened in a long time. My tastes have just gone towards rawer, bluesier, garage-ier sounds in recent times, for whatever reason.

Then something comes tripping over the transom like former Hanoi Rocks singer Michael Monroe's latest, Sensory Overdrive, and it can't be denied. After spending most of the last decade trying to give Hanoi Rocks another run with guitarist Andy McCoy and a cast of ringers, Monroe has opted to lay his most famous band to rest again and resume his solo career. For that task, he's assembled an all-star cast: Former Hanoi Rocks Mk. I bassist Sami Yaffa, guitarist Steve Conte (Yaffa's colleague in the reunited New York Dolls up until the past year), Wildhearts mainman Ginger on guitar (since replaced by Backyard Babies/Hellacopters firebrand Dregen), and one-time Danzig drummer Karl Rockfist. It's as potent and powerful an outfit as Monroe has enjoyed fronting since Demolition 23, the back to-punk-rock-basics band he and Yaffa used to destroy NYC stages in the early '90s.

And the album this band has cooked up? A granite-hard riff machine thickly coated in syrup and Pop Rocks. If, as Monroe proudly proclaims on the 2nd track, “You can't take '78 out of the boy,” then Monroe's version of 1978 owes more to The Boys or Generation X than to Sham 69. In a better world, this is what radio would sound like: Like a new, angry Cheap Trick record, shiny and loud and crunchy.

Truth be told, I suspect this has to do with Ginger's presence. This music has all the hallmarks of a Wildhearts record: Big, tough riffs owing as much to '80s metal as to '70s punk, bubblegum hooks the size of skyscrapers, brutal guitar tones mixed into a hypergloss production sheen. It could be The Wildhearts with Monroe's trademark vocals on top, in fact. So it'll be interesting to hear how the follow-up will sound with Dregen now filling Ginger's shoes.

Ginger or not, be damned, though. The fact is, it's not like this is exactly a watershed year for great rock 'n' roll records. Sensory Overdrive is an exception. It's been in steady rotation at Napalm HQ since its European release earlier this year (it only got the US nod in August, if I'm not mistaken), so the review is overdue. But I like it. You should, too.

SUZI QUATRO - “Strict Machine” (track from new LP, In The Spotlight)

Haven't had a chance to hear the complete LP from Detroit's favorite daughter Suzi Quatro, who taught Joan Jett everything she knows the same as Johnny Thunders taught me. But judging by this Goldfrapp cover given the video treatment by ex-Runaway Vicki Blue, Suzi may be onto something. Sexy and slinky as hell, with a burbling, distorted electro-bass groove, this is a highly effective update of the classic Quatro sound heard on '70s UK hits like “Can The Can” (actually quoted here). I seem to recall ZZ Top giving their own sound a similar sharp electro update in the '80s to great success. This is certainly the best usage of such production on a rock 'n' roll record since those ZZ Top records. Perhaps this can similarly propel Ms. Quatro into full comeback mode. All I know is, this rocks....

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