Album Review: Michael Monroe – “Horns And Halos”
Following the break-up of Hanoi Rocks in 2010, Michael Monroe gained some well-deserved credit for one of 2011’s great career resurrections with his “Sensory Overdrive” comeback effort. However, the musical landscape has shifted slightly in the two years since in Monroe’s band. Principally Ginger Wildheart, Monroe’s main co-songwriter on that album, has departed to resume his solo career leaving Finland’s most famous export to carry on unaided and with quite a bit to prove all over again.
Not to worry though, for all Ginger’s talent as a songwriter, it seems that the band hasn’t suffered much for his departure. With Backyard Babies six-stringer Dregen drafted in to add some extra guitar firepower alongside Steve Conte, Monroe has crafted a collection of songs here which rival the snotty punk energy of “Sensory Overdrive” and comprise a good solid follow-up. Kicking in with the ferocious “TNT Diet” and current single “Ballad Of The Lower East Side” (railing in style against the gentrification of the former boho district of the Big Apple), it’s clear that Monroe is still on top form as a songwriter. Though I think it’s safe to say that if you were daft enough to suspect otherwise then you probably don’t know the guy very well…
Indeed, the highlights come thick and fast through this effort and it’s safe to say that Monroe has kept a nice sense of variety in to keep the listener on their toes – witness the cut-and-thrust slice of glam punk that is “Saturday Night Special” being followed by “Stained Glass Heart” which sounds like a glammed-up cousin of the Cure’s “In Between Days” – be honest, you didn’t see that one coming, did ya? Likewise the title track crashes in as a sublime slice of Hanoi style attitude but suddenly throws you with an almost reggae-style middle section, a trick they subsequently repeat with “Soul Surrender” which goes from a spaced out ska-style verse to a frenetic riff-fest chorus. All in all, it shows that Mike has assembled a pretty damn proficient group of musicians behind him for this album.
That’s the key to this album, it keeps you guessing and thus keeps you interested. And it maintains its high standards throughout, whether Mike and the lads are churning out a big singalong glam stomper like “Child Of The Revolution” or “Hands Are Tied”, a harmonica honking slice of blues glam like “Eighteen Angels” or “Half The Way” or a big dark hard-driving epic like “Ritual”, they never sound anything other than at home doing it. It’s one thing to try and bring a bit of variety to your album, it’s quite another to be able to carry off whatever you put your hand to with as much panache as this album does and for that reason alone, Monroe and his band are the sort of group who we should definitely treasure as being at the top of their game.
No worries about a post-first album slump here, this is a triumph. Go get it.