A lot has happened in the rock ‘n’ roll world in the four years since ‘Blackout States’, the last album from Michael Monroe, hit the shelves. Slash and Duff rejoined Guns n’ Roses and are currently touring the world, The Wildhearts reformed and released their first (and arguably most important) album in ten years. Hell, even former Hanoi Rocks guitar-slinging legend Andy McCoy has beaten his former bandmate to releasing an album in 2019!
But while the wait for ‘One Man Gang’ has been a long one, the delay has been for good reason. Deals were struck and dotted lines signed to secure a record deal, management and build a promotion team to help get this album out where it needs to be heard. A band has to do what a band has to do in these trying times.
I refer to this band as The Monroes, as it has become way more than Michael Monroe the solo artist. Since the addition of former Black Halos man Rich Jones five years ago, this is the most stable line-up Michael Monroe has ever had. With Steve Conte, Karl Rockfist and of course former Hanoi Rocks bandmate Sami Yaffa backing the livewire frontman for 9 years, they have become a world-class live unit to be reckoned with. They have a certain chemistry, whether in the studio or on the stage, that cannot be faked. A gang mentality if you like, and this band possesses it in spades.
Recorded in Finland over a 3 week period in March last year, ‘One Man Gang’ was self-produced by Michael, Steve, and Rich, with the assistance of long-time engineer Petri Majuri, and all of the band members contribute to the writing process. As with the previous 3 albums, it has a punchy sound and a crystal clear production that captures and accentuates their killer live delivery.
Preaching his PMA (positive mental attitude), Monroe leads his cohorts through an incendiary, punk fuelled opener. The title track blasts from the speakers with a statement of intent. A tongue twister of a verse delivered with the fury and enthusiasm of a snotty, punk-ass kid. “I was front of the line when they gave out atti-chood!” he drawls in that unmistakable tone. You gotta love him, and the fact that The Damned legend Captain Sensible guests here with some cool guitar, well you just gotta love this song.
Recent single ‘Last Train To Tokyo’ is Monroe’s love letter to a city that he has had a special relationship with since the Hanoi Rocks days. Musically, its familiar territory as Steve Conte’s cool lead guitar refrain stabs over Rich Jones’ ’78 styled, punky riffage. An overly catchy chorus follows a well trodden, glitter-pathed road, recalling old haunts and memories. It’s a good place to be.
‘One Man Gang’ is an album choc-a-bloc with punchy rockers, loaded with Yaffa’s pumping bass and the low slung guitars of the formidable duo Conte and Jones. The likes of ‘Junk Planet’ and ‘The Pitfalls Of Being An Outsider’ are sure to be future live favourites.
Former Hanoi Rocks guitarist Nasty Suicide lends his six string prowess to the sonically seductive ‘Wasted Years’. It’s a song that has ‘single’ stamped all over it. There are hints of their former band as Monroe’s bursts of harmonica introduce the verses before another overly catchy chorus takes hold. Elsewhere, ‘Hollywood Paranoia’ walks the boulevard of broken dreams for sure. With its prominent mariachi horn section and Hanoi-style ‘nearly out of tune’ backing vocals and a chorus that could’ve been pilfered straight from the ‘Not Fakin’ It sessions, ‘Heaven Is A Free State’ a surprise highlight that sees the band explore unchartered territory with great success.
They take things down momentarily. The balladic ‘Midsummer Nights’ is this album’s ‘Stained Glass Heart’, it’s pretty generic truth be told, and probably the only track that doesn’t really do it for me at this early stage. But the retrospective and contemplative ‘In The Tall Grass’ is much more interesting. The band creates atmosphere with great use of space, as our illustrious singer croons over a silky bass line. The guitars accentuating the vibe nicely in the background before breaking out into a guitar driven chorus, played out over urgent Rockfist beats. Another of many highlights.
If you are hoping for something groundbreaking from ‘One Man Gang’ you will be disappointed, but if you desire a high octane, rock ‘n’ roll rollercoaster of a ride, then sit back and buckle down. The Monroes deliver just what the doctor ordered. As the man himself says in the PR bumph “I do what I do and I’ll never change”.
Rock ‘n’ Roll legends are a dying breed. Michael Monroe is a living, breathing example to all aspiring musicians, and at 57 years old shows no sign of slowing down just yet. ‘One Man Gang’ is surely a testament to how having a full dose of PMA can do wonders for a rock ‘n’ roll soul.
Buy ‘One Man Gang’ Here
Author: Ben Hughes