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Michael Monroe Take Them And Break Them

By Frank Meyer, Contributing Editor
Thursday, August 8, 2002 @ 6:11 PM


(Steamhammer/SPV)

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As if the new Hanoi Rocks reunion single or the upcoming full-length CD isn’t enough to delight gutter-glam-punks around the globe, Hanoi frontman Michael Monroe also delivers this live EP just to seal the fact that he’s still got it, still flaunts it, and you still can’t get enough of it. Take Them And Break Them is a rollicking 6-song mini-album to tide fans over till his next solo effort and features two studio cuts, four live tracks and whole lotta rock n’ roll attitude. As always, Monroe is chock full of energy and bravado and offers a multi-tiered threat of musical talents, armed with a harmonica, sax guitar and his trademark vocal sneer -- all packaged in a blur of teased platinum hair, cowboy boots, sequined jackets and flowing shirts. Keef would be proud.

The two studio cuts are both obscure covers by some of Mike’s favorite bands. The title track is a re-working of a Wanderers tunes, a short-lived ‘80s supergroup that featured Dead Boy Stiv Bators backed by UK punk stalwarts Sham 69. It’s a mean punk barnburner with a terrific chorus hook. “Backbiter” is equally ass-kicking and would make the Ruts, the group that originally penned it, proud. In the liner notes, Mike calls them one the greatest “punk” bands ever, and he should know.

Next up we get four absolutely blistering slices of Monroe’s live show (taken from a Japan gig last year), proving once and for all the man in a master showman, combining punk snarl with heavy metal firepower and arena rock showmanship. The guy is literally Jagger, Iggy, Bowie and Ms. Marilyn all rolled up into one glorious, sleazy package. “Make It Go Away” is pure ’77-era UK punk delivered with Monroe’s desperate vocals, which make it sound more emotionally high strung than many of his older punk peers. “Where’s The Fire John,” one of his best solo tunes to date, explores desperate, fast paced living in the modern era and is appropriately upbeat and dramatic. As Monroe spits out lines about technology overkill and social sheep herding the band cranks out the riff-laden power pop chorus hook and the combination is a perfect match. The heaviest number here is the epic “Just Because You’re Paranoid,” which gives way to a loose jam section in the middle that finds Monroe quoting both the Ruts’ “The Crack” and the Stones’ “Fingerprint File.” Finally, a hint of Johnny Thunders’ “Born To Lose” riff careens into the peppy “Relationshipwrecked,” a power pop tune wrapped around a gritty Sex Pistols-style riff. Backed by a tight four-piece band that features among its ranks bassist Timpa (now in Hanoi Rocks) and Pink Gibson (a.k.a. New York rocker Adam Bomb), plus the backing vocal talents of Monroe’s manager/girlfriend Jude Wilder (who sadly passed away last year), Monroe is on top of his game throughout this affair.

With a new solo album on the way and Hanoi Rocks back in full swing, it seems there’s no stopping Mr. Monroe these days. And rightly so. The man has been dancing outside of mainstream success for so long now that it seems about time he gets his just reward. I mean, how long can you stay an underground legend before you finally get what’s coming to you? Well, in this case, I’d say about 25 years.

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