Well, here’s an unexpected contender for the album of the year lists. Legendary Hanoi Rocks bassist Sami Yaffa wrote a bunch of songs in his tenure with the New York Dolls and the Michael Monroe band, but a lot of these ideas didn’t quite fit the rock n’ roll shaped hole for those bands. Drawing on his multi-cultural musical influences, Sami has spent the last few years creating his first solo album with the help of his childhood friend and drummer Janne Haavisto. The bulk of the album was co-written with fellow Monroes compadre Rich Jones, who lends guitar duties, along with Timo Kaltio (Cheap and Nasty), Christian Martucci (Stone Sour) and Rane Raitsikka (Smack).

Drawing on his love of The Clash and The Rolling Stones, Sami’s aim was to create a diverse album that draws on the versatility of those bands, yet still beats with the punk rock heart of a talent who has played with the likes of Joan Jett, Demolition 23, Jetboy, Smack, Johnny Thunders…need I go on?

‘The Innermost Journey To Your Outermost Mind’ is a groove heavy album in many ways. With sonically seductive bass, urgent beats and low slung riffage, first single ‘The Last Time’ was an energetic taster for the album a few months back. With an instant, killer chorus it is the sort of song that imbeds itself in the brain and certainly demands your full attention. It’s a good taster of what this album delivers, but there is so much more and a few curveballs to boot.

Of the more, let’s say, signature rock n’ roll on offer, ‘Fortunate One’ sounds like classic 90’s-era Iggy Pop, and the anthemic pogo-inciting ‘Selling Me Shit’ and ‘Germinator’ knock heads with The Monroes, coming on like UK Subs meets Duff McKagan’s Loaded. All are littered with bursts of sax and crazy harmonica solos, adding much to the cool factor. It doesn’t mention in the press release who actually plays on what, but we all know a singer who plays a mean sax and harmonica, don’t we?

But it’s when Sami thinks outside the box that things get really exciting for me. His diverse influences come to the fore on the likes of ‘Rotten Roots’ and ‘You Give Me Fever’. With a hypnotic bassline that grooves an almighty aural path, the former sees Sami deliver a heavy Finnish drawl over a contemporary reggae roots song that mixes up the sounds of Gorillaz, The Clash and The Levellers with great success. The latter takes things down and visits Toots and The Maytals territory for a low down, dub heavy party, the ultimate pressure drop.

Elsewhere, ‘Look Ahead’ is an upbeat gypsy drinking anthem that sees Sami explore his Mad Jauna days. With an Urban Voodoo Machine/The King Blues feel, this is the perfect sound of the underground. The reggae groove and bursts of trumpet give bohemian vibes and full-on gypsy outlaw charm. ‘I Can’t Stand It’ has a bluesy, Jack White guitar riff and raspy, 40-a-day vocals that bring to mind Tom Waits.

Of course, you can’t have an album from an ex-Hanoi member without a bit of Johnny Thunders-esque balladry, and ‘Down At St Joes’ is full of sentiment, retrospection and heartfelt goodness. But album closer, ‘Cancel The End Of The World’ is an epic 6 minute plus epilogue. I never thought I would be referencing Hanoi Rocks and Pink Floyd in the same song, but that’s the vibe I get from this sentimental journey, so go figure. It ends things on a high.


‘The Innermost Journey To Your Outermost Mind’ fits perfectly alongside the discography of a musician who has held down the bottom end on some of my favourite albums and was part of a classic band who have influenced several more of my favourite bands through the years.

The debut long player from Sami Yaffa offers a few surprises and a contemporary twist on rock n’ roll as we know it. Seriously, a case of ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’ has now been vanquished, as the bass player steps out from the shadows of his past bands, takes to the microphone and delivers one of the most outstanding albums of the year.

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Author: Ben Hughes