Tuesday 26 November 2019

Andy McCoy - 21st Century Rocks (2019)

Country: Finland
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 27 Sep 2019
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I reviewed Michael Monroe's latest solo album, One Man Gang, at the tail end of last month and I mentioned that his Hanoi Rocks sidekick, Andy McCoy, the other half of the Suicide Twins, had a solo album due a week later. This is that album and, while it might seem completely obvious to compare these two albums, they really have little in common. In fact, they highlight just how different these two musicians are and therefore just how much variety they brought to the Hanoi Rocks sound.

Monroe is a rock 'n' roll showman who brings strut and swagger and a sexual charisma to his music. McCoy is a musician who collates sounds from diverse sources and channels them into something new, coherent and vibrant. McCoy is Keith Richards to Monroe's Jagger, or maybe Joe Perry to his Steven Tyler. I think there's more though, because the variety here is more apparent than I expected and it continued to impress me in a way that only Heaven is a Free State did on Monroe's recent album.

Sure, the general sound here, like on Monroe's album, is clearly rooted in the Rolling Stones. The opening title track is built on a riff not dissimilar to Bitch and Bible and a Gun is an overt Stones homage that's agreeably rough enough to have been included on Sticky Fingers. However, just as the Stones drew from more music than the blues, so does McCoy. There are a host of ethnic sounds on this album and they elevate it considerably.

That opener has what sounds like an Indian radio station as its intro and Indian music adds to a new version of Soul Satisfaction from his 2018 EP of the same name. There's flamenco to kick off Seven Seas, old school rock 'n' roll on Batteram, which has lyrics that surely deliberately namecheck song titles. More out there, there's mariachi brass infusing a Latin flavour to Maria Maria, lap steel on Give a Minute, Steal a Year and saxophone on more than just The Hunger and Undertow, but it's particularly effective on those two. Most out there of all is Love It Loud, which is psychedelic reggae.

All that makes this suddenly sound like a world music album, but this still rocks, whatever sounds McCoy is adding into the mix. So there's a seventies style organ/guitar interplay on This is Rock 'n' Roll, with soulful backing vocals to boot, but it's full of outrageous guitar solos and the title is a fundamental truth.

One other angle that makes this feel more exotic is the fact that McCoy is more than just the guitarist; he provides the vocals too and his voice is, shall we say, an acquired taste. It's proudly unpolished and it provides a link between sleaze rock and gypsy punk. He's not Mick Jagger but he might well be Keith Richards after two bottles of Jack. The overall impression is an odd mix of Eugene Hütz from Gogol Bordello, Alice Cooper and Neil Young, of all people. It's not deliberate; it's there in inflections and moments, but it all adds up to a bizarre amalgam of voices into one.

On a first listen, this album doesn't feel particularly coherent. It's like an acid trip through Europe with the radio on but shifting from one station to another with each border crossing. On further listens, these songs start to feel a lot more consistent. They don't all get there, Maria Maria always staying apart from everything else, but the country, punk, soul, reggae and psychedelia start to feel like different accents of the same language.

I liked Monroe's album and I'm giving this the same rating, but they're two completely different sets of music and I'm more likely to come back to this one than the other. If you're less experimental in your music choices, then you may prefer Monroe though. It's more recognisably rock 'n' roll.

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