Album Review: The Strypes, Spitting Image

Cavan a rave-up

Too much talk around The Strypes’ debut Snapshot focused on the band’s age, rather than the music itself. Meanwhile, their second album, Little Victories – apparently unloved by the band themselves – was patchy. Accordingly then, there’s a lot riding on this one. The novelty has passed; it’s time to man up, literally.

It’s a genuine relief then – for I’ve had a bookies’ slip with their name on it since 2012 – to report that this record has more bangers than a Halloween party.

The album is a reflection of the records they’ve been listening to, according to a recent interview. The ones that spring to mind are prime-era Squeeze in kitchen sink drama ‘Grin And Bear It’; Elvis Costello & The Attractions throughout – that could be Steve Nieve’s keyboard on ‘(I Need A Break From) Holidays’; early Pretenders; and even Thin Lizzy on ‘Get It Over Quickly’ and career highlight ‘Great Expectations’. They also cop a feel of Graham Parker & The Rumour (‘Black Shades Over Red Eyes’).

With Ethan “son of Glyn” Johns behind the desk, we get to hear a band bouncing off each other in a room, as nature intended. And they really are quite a band; the rhythm section of Peter O’Hanlon and Evan Walsh is both subtle and powerful, while vocalist Ross Farrelly continues to grow in confidence, and Josh McClorey is a very exciting guitarist indeed. He channels Pete Townshend on ‘Easy Riding’, lashing out solos that would make Scott Gorham proud, before going back to the band’s R&B roots on excellent closer ‘Oh Cruel World’.

The lyrics – O’Hanlon, Walsh, and McClorey all get the biros out – are also maturing nicely. The smalltown characters in the aforementioned ‘Grin and Bear It’ and ‘Great Expectations’ show men contemplating what might have been, while the fair-play-to-me-Ma acoustic ode ‘Mama Gave Me Order’ most likely has the ghost of Phil Lynott grinning somewhere.

It doesn’t all work: the Fleetwood Mac-style ‘Garden of Eden’, for example, isn’t great. But it’s worth remembering that this isn’t some gang of chancers bragging about playing to six people and a dog somewhere in upstate New York. Rather, they’re a high-up-the-bill worldwide draw, thanks to a ferocious live show – and this fine, road-ready album is only going to build on that.

 

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