Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi… Janes? Indeed. Hanoi Janes pushes DIY pop production to its spectral (and Spector-esque, for that matter) limits on the aptly titled Year Of Panic. They have nothing to do with the iconic Finnish rock band Hanoi Rocks. Take from that what you will.
Hanoi Janes is the work of one guy from Dresden with an eight-track recorder and an innate drive to capture that “Spector/Wilson sound.” And on Year Of Panic, he – whoever he is – oddly succeeds, for the most part. Where Spector and Wilson built walls of sound on foundations of reverb, Hanoi Janes build walls of razor wire on squishy floors of bubblegum.
The songs are almost impossibly short (with most clocking in at under two minutes) and devoid of frills. The melodies are sticky, and the vocals are fuzzed out beyond intelligibility. Year Of Panic is the sort of album that takes a few listens to ring true; the nuances are there, but they’re buried beneath a scum that takes some subtle aural prodding to get through. But after a few repeats (which don’t take that long, really) the album’s pop sensibilities hit you like a… well, like a wall of sound, and the music inspires beer drinking and rearranging the furniture (if you’re into that sort of thing).
Aside from the Phil Spector bent we’ve also got the puzzling imagery of the name, an obvious homage to Jane Fonda, who controversially said of the American involvement in Vietnam: “I believe in my heart, profoundly, that the dykes are being bombed on purpose.” If Hanoi Janes has anything in common with Hanoi Jane, it’s that the music on Year Of Panic would make for an excellent (if not manic) aerobics soundtrack if you’ve misplaced your copy of Jane Fonda’s Workout Record.
Year Of Panic opens with the lip-smacking, hand-clapping The Boys Are Out. Here, guitars cut like buzz-saws with guttural lo-fi intensity. Vocals are nearly unrecognisable as the utterances of a human being – they sound a bit like the possessed retching of a half-crazed troglodyte hopped up on mescaline and seeing visions of man-sized reptiles. But it’s impossible not to be affected by the exuberant refrain: “The boys are out tonight!”
As mentioned above, the songs are despairingly short; once you’ve got hold of a hook, it fizzles and disappears, not into the ether, but into the boardwalk parade onslaught of one man’s quest for the perfectly sphered rubbish-bin pocket symphony.
Beach Kids is Velvet Underground via California. Sag Sag Sag skulks on the backbeat of a sludgier version of some twisted Ronettes motown beat. Surfin’ KMC is all surf organ and Dick Dale drumming. Casablanca opens with frantic horn-sounding ham-fisted guitar bar chords (or maybe that’s a horn section; nearly impossible to tell for certain) and the delightfully hip-twitching chorus: “Casabla-yah-yah-yanca!”
Dee Dee Ramone could have loved Hanoi Janes. Spector, Wilson and Fonda aside, Year Of Panic smacks of the same qualities that made the Ramones‘ first record so great. Not the punk stuff, but the unrelenting, unapologetic love for the perfectly packaged pop song; the unique ability to get in, get out, get another beer, and get on with it.