So it’s finally here, after all the hype and hoopla, those aged bluesmen from Cavan’s Backwater Delta, The Strypes, have delivered their debut long player. By now we’re all well versed in their creation myth. Collectively they’re the same age as Ozzy Osbourne. They’ve received shout outs and acclaim from such luminaries as Paul Weller, Jeff Beck, Noel Gallagher, Dave Grohl and er… Elton John amognst others. They’ve signed an unprecedented five album deal with Mercury Records. And they are the tightest outfit to emerge from Cavan in that fine counties history, and given the reputation that Cavan men endure, that’s some achievement.
The naysayers and begrudgers (this is Ireland after all) have derided their lack of originality and identity. In an age when most Indie bands sound like they’re all going through the same motions and the Unique Selling Point separating electro outfits is the settings on their Nords or Moogs, WTF is wrong with reproducing the sounds of the early 60s beat explosion? This is Maximum RnR – RnB hepped up on goof balls and by Jesus H Christ, despite its vintage, this sounds fresh, rejuvenated and vital.
The album itself is a 12 song collection of originals and 3 covers. It clocks in at a blistering 33 minutes. At the helm in the recording studio is Chris Thomas who has produced a whole host of other upstarts over the years including The Beatles, Pink Floyd and the Sex Pistols. From the opening feedback of ‘Mystery Man’ to the blues harp driven closer of Hambone Willie Newbern’s, ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin’ the lads cover all the moves in the Bluesma’ns HandBook 101. The songs are dispatched with vim and vigour, ripped through with the same ferocity that encapsulates their live shows.
But is there enough here to silence those negative ninnies or are they merely pointing out what those caught up in the hype have become blinkered to. Are The Strypes more than a glorified covers band? Is there any substance behind the pastiche? One of the bands that they’ve been compared to is those other young darlings who came to save rock n roll back in 2006, the Arctic Monkeys. And the comparisons are valid to a degree. Musically both bands emerged head and shoulders above their peers and both were hailed by various movers and shakers as the next big thing.
Lyrically The Strypes are no Alex Turner. Whereas that particular band emerged fully formed musically and with a songsmith who possessed a beautiful sense of caustic realism, The Strypes are all bubble gum blues, stolen looks at girls, cups of tea and spoons of sugar. But we must remember that Turner was a few year older than these lads so to a certain degree it’s a case of apples and oranges. And maybe an upbringing in the Badlands of Cavan doesn’t offer the wealth of material that’s available in the metropolis of Sheffield’s steel grey city. Scummy men cruising prostitutes in their Ford Mondeos compared to plucking up the courage to talk to the Hometown Girls but given the commitment and drive that these young men possess there’s no doubting that they are fully aware of this missing element and they’re working on addressing that imbalance.
This collection of songs should be judged purely as that. It’s not a bona fide album. It lacks the narrative and musical cohesion required warrant that label. Rather it’s an anthology of songs documenting where The Strypes are now and where they have come from. It is a indeed snapshot, an artifact capturing the origins of a band that are hopefully on their way to bigger and better things.