The Strypes are making quite a noise these days. The four-piece from Cavan, Ireland, may still be in their mid teens but they are hardly novices, having already built up a reputation for their energetic live shows over the last five years, attracting much media attention and celebrity endorsements from musicians like Jeff Beck, Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher and the Arctic Monkeys, who they will be supporting on their forthcoming arena tour.
But what makes the band unusual is not their youth but the fact that they are saturated in the music of the 60s British blues-rock explosion, especially The Yardbirds, The Pretty Things and Them (as well as the black American rock’n’roll and rhythm and blues artists who inspired them, like Chuck Berry and Howlin’ Wolf). Their debut album Snapshot also betrays the influence of pub-rock bands of the ’70s, in particular Dr Feelgood, who bridged the blues and punk movements.
The 12 pulsating tracks, averaging two and a half minutes each, include four cover songs, while the other self-written ones sound like they are somebody else’s, so closely do they follow the blueprint of the band’s role models – which is both a tribute and a limitation. Not surprisingly, the often funny lyrics mainly revolve around the state of their hormones rather than the state of the world today, though whether this is going to appeal more to an older audience re-living their sweaty adolescence rather than the band’s peers remains to be seen. It’s hard to believe that The Strypes can make such an old-fashioned style of music cool for a younger generation but they give it their best shot in this fully committed album.
Opener Mystery Man starts with shuddering feedback before exploding into frenetic action, with splintering guitar work and wailing harmonica. First single Blue Collar Jane maintains the high-octane pace, while She’s So Fine is another breathless celebration of teenage lust. However, probably the most impressive track, Angel Eyes, is a slowish, steamy blues number with a spaghetti western flavour, including the lines: “I’d love to steal your heart away but baby I’m no thief / Well I can’t be the bad guy, no I ain’t no Lee Van Cleef.”
Perfect Storm returns to a tempestuous tempo of hormonal urges, while Hometown Girls smacks of desperate sexual energy: “Can’t you give me a fix I’m craving confidence / I reek of sweat and teenage innocence.” In Nick Lowe’s song Heart Of The City pub rock meets punk in a head-on collision and the stop-start Rollin’ And Tumblin’ by Muddy Waters is a fun way to close the album.
The band have precocious musical ability, fronted by Ross Farrelly’s gutsy vocals and harmonica, with main songwriter Josh McClorey on blistering guitar and a tight rhythm section of bassist Pete O’Hanlon and drummer Evan Walsh. Veteran producer Chris Thomas, whose own experience in the music industry dates back to the ’60s, as well as co-producing The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks, has captured their raw appeal well.
The remarkable thing about The Strypes is not only are they playing the pop music of their grandparents’ generation but that they do it so convincingly. They may come across as carbon copies but the music is performed with authentic passion and flair. The same fuss would almost certainly not have been made about them if they had been a bunch of, say, 30-year-olds, but their youthful enthusiasm is a large part of their charm. It will be interesting to see if they are able to develop their own distinctive songwriting style – anything is possible when you’re young, isn’t it?