Album Reviews

The Strypes – Little Victories

(Virgin EMI) UK release date: 21 August 2015

The Strypes – Little Victories As four mid-teenagers from small-town Cavan in rural Ireland, The Strypes burst onto the music scene in 2013 with their retro debut album Snapshot, which lovingly re-created the style of ’60s garage blues-rock and ’70s new-wave pub rock. What made it remarkable was not the music itself but how a band so young could imitate the sound of their heroes from two generations earlier so faithfully. Although they received a lot of positive publicity from high-profile musicians’ endorsements and a documentary film about them by Julien Temple, The Strypes were in danger of becoming dead-end prodigies.

Now verging on the precipitous age of 20, the quartet’s follow-up Little Victories shows considerable development with a wider musical vocabulary not so dependent on the formats of rhythm and blues and rock’n’roll. Their more contemporary sound shows the influence of recent British indie lad rock as well as the likes of Them, The Yardbirds and Dr Feelgood. But despite claims that they’ve “grown up musically”, the album shows The Strypes still very much looking to past models rather than creating anything original themselves.

Lyrically not much has changed in that the subject of most songs is still teenage love and sex, or the desperate desire for it, in which the female fantasised about is usually out of reach, but the words are crafted with more confidence even if the feelings expressed are far from mature.

First single Get Into It describing the perils of online dating – “Her profile’s just the best” – has a solid groove and catchy chorus. In the glam stomp I Need To Be Your Only lead singer Ross Farrelly’s vocals become increasingly frantic with infatuation for a dream girl out of his league who sounds just like his cup of tea: “She’s the bag, she’s the leaves, she’s the sugar.” The Hammond organ-backed A Good Night’s Sleep And A Cab Fare Home has a more sultry vibe in a tale of Saturday-night lust.

Hormonal urges also exert their power in Eighty-Four – “I can’t control myself when you’re next to me” – which has the breakneck pace of early Arctic Monkeys, the raucous Queen Of The Half Crown has a Kasabian-style football-terrace chorus, and Oasis’s power ballads are evoked by the more tender feelings of (I Wanna Be Your) Everyday: “I know you’re bad for me / But I just wanna try.” Best Man and Three Streets & A Village both fizz with reverb vocals and wah-wah guitar from Josh McClorey.

Now She’s Gone recounts cutting ties with a girl “past her sell-by date” with Royal Blood-like heavy riffing. The New Wave-y Cruel Brunette bemoans the cruelty of a girl who won’t sleep with the singer. Status Update features pumping bass from Pete O’Hanlon, crashing drums from Evan Walsh and Farrelly’s wailing harmonica with swamp-rock rebelliousness. And closing track Scumbag City feels like a blues as played by Nick Lowe, one of the artists whom The Strypes covered on their first album. Even if their musical influences are still heavily apparent, at least Little Victories shows the band writing all their own songs with growing assurance.

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More on The Strypes
The Strypes @ KOKO, London
The Strypes – Little Victories
The Strypes – Snapshot