Hanoi Rocks – Back To Mystery City (1983): Review


Produced by Dale Buffin Griffin and Pete Watts
Label – Johanna

Hanoi Rocks never feared exposing their influences, and the myriad styles would inspire the music that would in turn pave the way for glam/hair metal bands of the 80s such as Motley Crue, Poison and Twisted Sister. So indebted to the Finnish rockers, Axl Rose would admit that they should have been bigger than Guns n’ Roses. A combination of communal alcoholic excess, the tragic death of drummer Razzle, and an unsettled line up meant that the band never truly reached their undoubted potential. “Back To Mystery City”, their fourth long player, is as theatrically explosive as previous performances, with the raw lineage from their time in punk bands in the late 70s combined with the glam sounds of New York Dolls, T. Rex and Alice Cooper. Mott The Hoople’s Dale Buffin Griffin and Pete Watts were brought in to help reproduce their noted electrifying live performances and gratuitous braggadocio. On the whole it works well, particularly on side one where the punk urgency feels more convincing, the snappy riffs jousting with Michael Monroe’s howling vocal.


The album kicks off with the bizarre folk/prog instrumental “Strange Boys Play Weird Openings”; a tongue in cheek attempt to wrong foot the listener, complete with an elegantly airy flute melody and background song bird calls. From an odd opening the pulsating blast of “Malibu Beach Nightmare” alerts the senses. The frenetic pop/punk energy sounds similar to The Ruts “Something That I Said” with its surging guitar and pummelling rhythm. The powerful “Tooting Bec Wreck” provides the images of squalor from their former rat infested home in South London. “Ice Cream Summer”, written by a 17 year old Andy McCoy, gives Monroe the opportunity to deliver a vocal melody that could have come from The Ramones “End Of The Century”. The title track bears an unapologetic resemblance to “Mony Mony” and yet contains enough verve and vigour to prompt a forgiving smile for its party atmospherics. One can imagine it was a killer live composition. The collection would convince CBS to contract them to a three album deal. Unfortunately, issues within the band would spiral out of control and the Hanoi Rocks effectively split just over a year later.

“Back To Mystery City” is a curious but mostly enjoyable artefact built in a wasteland bordered by punk rock and glam metal. For all its uneven idiosyncrasies, it’s fun, authentic and one can understand its relevance to future metal acts.


Track Rating
1 – Strange Boys Play Weird Openings (n/a)
2 – Malibu Beach Nightmare (9)
3 – Mental Beat (6)
4 – Tooting Bec Wreck (7)
5 – Until I Get You (7)
6 – Sailing Down The Tears (6)
7 – Lick Summer Love (7)
8 – Beating Gets Faster (6)
9 – Ice Cream Summer (7)
10 – Back To Mystery City (7)

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