It’s been a while since we heard anything from the Sherriff McCoy. In fact, its 10 years since Hanoi Rocks performed their last hurrah and put the band to bed with a final show at the Tavastia in Helsinki. So what has Michael Monroe’s former partner in crime been up to? Well, if you believe the comments on YouTube, it appears he has been a lighthouse keeper for 10 years! While I would love that to be true, apart from the short-lived Grease Helmet and a few guest appearances, it seems he has done little musically to speak of and has spent more time on his artwork, clothes design and even a stint on Finland’s Celebrity Big Brother.
But the guitar legend is back with a 12 song slab of ‘21st Century Rocks’, his first solo album since ‘Building On Tradition’ that came out way back in 1995. And what a welcome surprise it is.
Lead single ‘Seven Seas’ came out of nowhere a month back and actually upstaged Monroe’s first offering from the highly anticipated ‘One Man Band’. Andy always had an ear for melody and ‘Seven Seas’ confirms he still has a trick or two up his sleeve. A definite classic Hanoi feel comes across, as it builds to a fantastic uplifting chorus that fills the ears and soul with a feeling of euphoria no drug can give. Can Andy McCoy possibly be the king of all comebacks? We will have to see if the rest of the album holds up to the same quality.
That familiar guitar tone blasts from the speakers as the title track sets the scene for the album. The even more familiar vocal drawl follows. Andy McCoy’s vocals are certainly an acquired taste, but let’s not forget Hanoi Rocks’ back catalogue would not be the same without those quirky ‘out of tune’ backing vocals of his. And that guitar solo… no one plays guitar quite like Andy McCoy! Killer stuff indeed.
The ghost of his bastard past is never far away. ‘Undertow’ comes on like ‘A Day Late, A Dollar Short’, there’s even a sax solo to boot. I wonder if it originated from those sessions. Whether it did or not, it’s a cool tune for sure. Then ‘Batteram’ takes things way back in time. That melody comes on like Hanoi’s ‘Desperado’ to these ears. And the way he sings “round” and “ground” in the chorus with an unmistakeable accent is cool as fuck.
Andy’s songwriting and guitar playing has always been more experimental, taking in eastern and reggae influences, and he certainly creates a few more mental beats to make a diverse album. While Monroe has stuck to his rock ‘n’ roll roots for his whole solo career, (and we wouldn’t want it any other way, right?) McCoy explores the obscure and recaptures the quirky influences that peppered Hanoi’s earlier albums.
‘Maria Maria’ is pure class. Mariachi vibes all over as trumpets and strummed acoustics take us into spaghetti western territory. The Urban Voodoo Machine comes to mind as Andy transports us to the Mexican border to smoke a doobie or two, down tequila and jam out in the scorching sun with a chiquita or two. That is what I imagine Andy has been doing in the wilderness years! While I don’t think Andy is even allowed anywhere near any US boarders anytime soon due to his past antics, the idea is spot on.
‘Soul Satisfaction’ is another track that is out there, even in Andy McCoy terms. A tripped-out pre chorus leads into a 70’s New York groove as the main man slurs his words like Keith Richards on his second bottle of Jack.
‘Bible and a Gun’ could sit nicely anywhere in his discography. A bluesy, Stonesy little number with honky tonk piano and a cool barroom boogie groove. Elsewhere, Andy makes his guitar gently weep on the opening riff of ‘The Hunger’. The laid back, jangly backing, harmonised guitars and the ‘Village Girl’ style breakdown to fade makes this a rapturous and satisfying ride.
As we reach the final stretch it comes to mind that Andy McCoy actually comes on like vintage Alice Cooper, which is something that I never realised. Take away the smoky sax on ‘Gimme Time’ and listen intently to closer ‘This is Rock ‘n’ Roll’ with its gang backing vocals and Detroit garage rock delivery and maybe you’ll catch my drift.
Obviously, ‘21st Century Rocks’ will be measured up against ‘One Man Gang’ as they literally come out within weeks of each other. Michael Monroe has an established career as a solo artist and has one of the best live bands in the business, and Andy is…well he’s just Andy McCoy, the guitar-slinging outlaw! Let’s not take anything away from either camp. Both are living legends that together produced some of the greatest albums in my record collection and influenced a whole generation of bands.
While they made magic together, they continue to do the same on their own terms. ‘21st Century Rocks’ is a testament to that, a surprise hit on many levels. Who’s for a UK tour then?
Buy 21st Century Rocks Here (Finland)
Buy 21st Century Rocks Here (Amazon)
Author: Ben Hughes