The term “hair metal” was thrown around a lot in the 1980s, often at bands that little or nothing to do with it – like the Gunners (too bluesy), Def Leppard (not metal enough once they were successful, too British, and not really of that scene at all), or Queensyrche (too proggy) and any number of other bands. It’s a terrible term, really, anyway, given how un-metal most “hair metal” bands are. Hanoi Rocks is one of those bands some people considered “hair metal” and I’m glad to see RYM doesn’t. Because whatever “hair metal” was, I don’t think Hanoi Rocks is it. It’s not really anything ’80s.
Some say that Hanoi Rocks basically want to be Mott the Hoople. I don’t know Mott well enough to hear that, myself. Rather, I hear a far less campy, less punky, less fun Finnish New York Dolls, filtered through a decade and with a lot more of commercial polish and a lot more reverence for rock and roll. Hanoi Rocks are like the rock version of Mink Deville, with more camp and a little more grit.
That is to say, this is a band that loves the past. Nothing about their outfits and makeup would suggest that, of course, but they really do. This music is super worshipful of traditional rock and roll in a way I never would have ever imagined by looking at them (or by seeing them associated with the term “hair metal”).
I will say, as a nostalgia act, they’re much better than most – they’re very good at what they do and the high camp level makes it feel a little bit more fun than if you were just listening to some Finns pretending they were an American ’50s rock and roll band in the 1980s. They’re also very clearly talented musicians, they just happen to be playing music totally out of step with the time.
Because of the slight amount of quirk, I like this more than I should. But it’s still mostly just nostalgia hiding behind big hair.