In spite of the fact that [URL]http://www.allmusic.com[/URL] is undoubtedly one of the premier music resources on the wonderful creation that is the Internet, it's hard not to feel that they've missed a trick when it comes to this album. While it is referred to as "theatrical, rowdy, brash, boisterous, outrageous, rambunctious, sleazy and raucous", there's one adjective that sums up Two Steps From The Move
better than any other, and that one word is "fun". As an album, it's about as subtle as you might expect from a group that featured the improbably monikered "Nasty Suicide" on guitar, and yet there's still something profoundly enjoyable about the album, in a way that's ever so slightly disconcerting if (like me) you have a deeply-rooted scepticism about anything claiming to be "glam" that doesn't involve Lou Reed
or David Bowie
. Tragically, this would be Hanoi Rocks' last full-length studio album for nearly twenty years, in spite of the fact that Two Steps From The Move
would see them achieving a level of commercial success for the first time in their career, thanks in part to the presence of Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper producer Bob Ezrin. The death of the band's drummer, Razzle, shortly after the album's release led to the band struggling and failing to replace him, directly causing their period on hiatus until 2002, when Hanoi Rocks was reformed. This series of events has given the album a renewed significance among fans of the band, with it being regarded by some as an album that spoke clearly of what the band could have gone on to do.
As a brief aside, I must confess that I'd never sat through a whole Hanoi Rocks album before I issued a general plea for people to send me albums with the guarantee that I would review anything that people sent me. Since I'm a great believer in needing to understand the context of albums, I've now listened to several Hanoi Rocks albums in full, and this belief that Two Steps From The Move
is set in glam history as being an album that reveals what Hanoi Rocks could have done is completely correct. Compared to Self Destruction Blues
and Oriental Beat
, the songwriting has improved beyond recognition, and it's undoubtedly a far more coherent listen than anything which they'd ever released before. The consistency of the album is perhaps its major strength for that matter. Although the album is something of a one-trick pony with most songs being characterised by a loud, endearingly stupid guitar riff that makes Angus Young looks like a musician well schooled in the art of nuanced use of the guitar, there are no songs here that clearly let the album down.
That's not to say that there aren't highlights though. Up Around The Bend
is one of the two shortest songs on the album, and serves as the perfect opening track for an album like this. Blasted along by vocals that are as cheesy as you can get without being written by a man wielding an axe and singing about Vikings soaring through unknown galaxies, it also constantly sounds like it's within seconds of turning into Rockin' All Over the World
by Status Quo (pretty much the highest form of praise for a band like Hanoi Rocks). High School
is more of a punk song than any other song on the album, albeit one that prominently features one of the album's hidden weapons. Although vocal harmonies aren't going to be what first comes to mind when asked for defining characteristics of Hanoi Rocks, their use during the chorus here raises the song up to the level of being another one of the album highlights. Although High School
is the best example of this feature of the band's music, The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
has the backing vocals providing more of a support to frontman Michael Monroe. Just to be clear, we're not talking about Beach Boys style layered vocals here, but rather the equivalent of football fans following the loud guy without a shirt on at the front of the stands. And yet, as any of you who have been to a football match can tell you, singing like that can be remarkably enjoyable for all involved.
Of course, the biggest downside to the album is that while it's very consistent, it's consistent to the point of being formulaic at times. While Two Steps From The Move
isn't anywhere near as guilty of this as albums by similar artists (AC/DC
spring to mind), if you don't like two or three songs from this album then it's a pretty safe bet to say that you're not going to like any of them. On the other hand, that's true of virtually every album that I categorise as "music to strut to", so it's probably safe to say that that's a criticism of the entire genre, rather than of Two Steps From The Move
in particular. Unlike other such albums, this is also boosted by the fact that Mr. Monroe is actually quite a good singer. Possibly his best performance is on Don't You Ever Leave Me
, in which he alternates between Frank Black style spoken interludes and a more typical style that manages to sound like he's bragging about something even while singing lyrics every bit as desperate as the song title suggests.
I am in fact reliably informed that Don't You Ever Leave Me
and Million Miles Away
were the two biggest hits from the album, which isn't particularly surprising. Million Miles Away
features a solo from what I believe is a saxophone, with Monroe again giving one of his best vocal performances. Indeed, if I could pick one song from this album to play to anyone who'd never heard anything by Hanoi Rocks before, this would be it. In spite of the fact that Monroe's refrain of "Please, don't be thinking of me" sounds (again, quite uncannily) like Duran Duran in a particularly insincere moment, the song actually goes through numerous left turns, and provides the single best example of them moving away from their signature sound.
Although Michael Monroe has deservedly been the most focused on of the band's members, it's also worth looking at the contributions of Nasty Suicide and the late Razzle. Although Razzle isn't particularly notable from behind the drumkit, the disintegration of the band following his death (in spite of the fact that he wasn't an original member of the group) certainly implies that he had a mighty influence behind the scenes. As for Nasty Suicide...although the riffs are the most memorable part of his guitar playing on this album, he also provides some solos that turn the air guitar + strut combination into the full air guitar + falling to the knees trick that is scientifically proven to get 94% more women than people who actually play the guitar. In other words, the guy rocks in a way that died along with many bands like this when everyone woke up from the 1980s and decided that such fun and games simply wouldn't do anymore.
On one level, this album fits into what you'd expect from an album picked at random from the glam shelf at HMV. It's got the guitar solos, the unsubtle lyrics and the attitude that simply defines the genre. But on the other hand this album also gives you a glimpse into a band that might just have been going places but for the loss of their drummer. On songs like Boiler (Me Boiler 'N' Me)
, featuring an English accent that is pure Dick Van Dyk, the band begin moving away from their expected sound in a way that hints that their next album might have started winning them a whole new set of fans. I must confess that I was cynical when I first got this album. Even after hearing it for the first time I was still planning on simply giving it a couple more plays and then getting this review done with as soon as possible. But having listened to it many more times I'm very pleased that I didn't. As an album, Two Steps From The Move
isn't a masterpiece, although it's very good within the genre. As a progression from the band's previous work and a hint at potential that would never be fully tapped, it's really something of a landmark.