The Strypes are 4-piece rhythm and blues band hailing from Cavan, Ireland, formed in 2011 by Ross Farrelly (lead vocals/harmonica), Josh McClorey (lead guitar/vocals), Pete O’Hanlon (bass guitar/harmonica) and Evan Walsh (drums).
The group has spent the past 18 months launching their explosive R&B assault on the clubs and festivals of Ireland, the UK and Europe, viciously hammering out a no-nonsense blues repertoire drawing from the songbooks of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Slim Harpo and more with the passion and venom of British blues groups such as Dr. Feelgood, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones and The Animals.
Having already been met with critical acclaim from greats such as Jeff Beck and Paul Weller and been tipped by NME as the No. 1 new band to watch, it seems things can only get better for The Strypes.
In 1964, the Who coined the term "Maximum R&B," summing up the brawn, blues and ecstasy in their pop art. A full 50 years later, on March 18th, the Strypes – a quartet of hard looks, long drive and tender years, founded in 2011 in Cavan, Ireland, and still 18 and under – skidded into New York's Bowery Ballroom sounding like "My Generation" and Five Live Yardbirds only came out yesterday and anyone muttering the words "boy band" would be skinned alive.
Celebrating the U.S. release that day of their debut album, Snapshot (Island/Def Jam), singer-harpist Ross Farrelly, guitarist-singer Josh McClorey, bassist Pete O'Hanlon and drummer Evan Walsh came out at high speed and, for most of their hour-and-small-change on stage, got faster, zooming through Bo Diddley's "I Can Tell," the Specials' "Concrete Jungle" and their own teenage nervous breakdowns "What a Shame," "Mystery Man" and "Blue Collar Jane" with taut impatience, like they were in a hurry to come of age. They have already done a lot of that work. Walsh kept manic time like a stoic-precision mix of Charlie Watts and Tommy Ramone – racing, never rushing. O'Hanlon thrashed his wide-body bass like it's a deep-throated rhythm guitar – John Entwistle with power chords.
McClorey has a fierce, accomplished grip on the precedents in his slicing clang: At one point, he threw the Yardbirds lick from "Over Under Sideways Down" into the Delta-blues avalanche "Rollin' and Tumblin'," connecting those histories at Damned-like velocity. Farrelly's echoes were a Liam Gallagher bray loaded with the Yardbirds' Keith Relf and a husky-Chicago minimalism on harp. He didn't crack a smile the whole time, but it was the proper advertising. The Strypes are serious about the homage and striving in their fun.
There was nothing new in this furor. That's no problem or surprise. British pop often cycles back through this kind of power-blues purism, like a cleansing ritual. In the mid-Seventies, Dr. Feelgood – with McClorey's most obvious guitar ancestor, Wilko Johnson – swept the landscape clean for punk; the Inmates and the Godfathers kept the Chess-45 and Nuggets faith during the post-punk era and the New Romantics' cheek.
The Strypes have more distance to cover – they have arrived at a time when their most famous fans, including Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Elton John (the band is signed to his management), are now the vintage of the blues elders those stars worshipped and modernized. But the ruckus on Snapshot and the Strypes' no-dead-air rush in performance is so old – and determined in its purity – that it's radical: a blunt refusal to believe that this kind of blowup has been beaten to cliché. The closing run at the Bowery – Nick Lowe's "Heart of the City"; that "Rollin' and Tumblin'"; encores of the Ramones' "Rockaway Beach" and Richard Berry's "Louie, Louie" – and made it clear: The Strypes operate according to their own calendar, maps and hunger, jumping oceans and decades for their lessons and inspiration. (Extra credit: their surprise appearance at SXSW, with Irish PR legend and DJ B.P. Fallon, covering "Vicious" at a Lou Reed tribute.)
As songwriters, the Strypes value concision – the right stuff in this music – and have a precocious knack for hooks ("What the People Don't See") and retro wit (the line about spaghetti-western villain Lee Van Cleef in "Angel Eyes"). There is the issue of vision – what comes after you've found and mastered your roots – and the thin line between passion and pastiche. But the Strypes are still at an age of discovery, with the chops to apply their learning. They can't be the new '65 Kinks, Rolling Stones or Yardbirds – that's been done to perfection – but they're at the right starting line, making an impressive entrance.
It's nigh on impossible these days to keep up with the Cavan lads trajectory. The Strypes have only just returned from their hugely successful US debut and have now launched into yet another European Tour.
Last night they kicked off with a blistering show in The Limelight, Belfast. Tonight they play The Academy in Dublin with support from The Hot Sprockets, they're also performing a show for Under 18's in the Academy at 3pm tomorrow. They then jet off to play dates in Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium, France and Italy before the month of April is through. Not to mention dates in Spain, a headline spot at Sea Sessions Festival and many more to be announced.
With praise raining down on them left right and center the most recent accolade being a four page spread in Rolling Stone magazine and rumblings of a new album being recorded in May there really is no stopping the Cavan quartet.
The Strypes are Irish teens who bring back the pub rock of Brinsley Schwarz and Dr. Feelgood
Despite their age, they play well, with smart solos and brisk tempos
Pop quiz: Which musical movement arrived as a precursor to punk, rising in defiant reaction to the flashiness of glam-rock and prog?
Hint: It took place in the U.K. between 1972 and 1975.
Not to worry. The answer — pub rock — will surely cause head-scratching, even among many old enough to have been around at the time. It’s even less likely you’ll find any current teenagers schooled in the ancient style.
That’s just part of what makes a new band, the Strypes, so weird — and so refreshing. They’re all kids, between the ages of 16 and 18, whose music draws, in key part, from lost bands of the pub-rock micro-movement. We’re talking acts like Dr. Feelgood, Brinsley Schwarz (with Nick Lowe), Ducks Deluxe and Dave Edmunds
The Irish foursome’s hard-charging, full-length debut, “Snapshot,” has the right blend of high-velocity riffs, terse solos and blues-inflected songwriting that the classic pub rockers idolized.
“Those were just the records that were around when we were growing up,” says guitarist Josh McClorey. “Nick Lowe and Dr. Feelgood were always on from our parents.”
But the band members didn’t stop with pub rock. They traced the sound back to the bands that had influenced them — like the Yardbirds, the Animals and the early Stones, back when they specialized in blues and R&B covers. That led the Stypes even further into musical history — to discover the artists who influenced the first line of British rockers, like Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley.
“It’s all connected,” McClorey says.
Small wonder “Snapshot” not only includes the Strypes’ original takes on the style, but also credible covers of Willie Dixon’s “You Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover” and a mad dash through Nick Lowe’s breathless “Heart of the City.”
You can hear the Strypes’ spirited renditions of such songs live when they headline Bowery Ballroom Tuesday.
The foursome grew up together in Cavan, in the north of Ireland. They first played there as preteens. Soon they got gigs around Ireland, performing, appropriately enough, in pubs they were far too young to drink in.
McClorey says they didn’t take their name from the White Stripes, though they have much in common with that band and they all love Jack White. “We were just 9 or 10 years old and we were wearing striped shirts,” he says. “Then we gave it a classic misspelling.”
While much has been made of their ages, McClorey asserts that “it’s not strange to be that young. The Stones, the Jam and Arctic Monkeys were all teenagers when they started. It’s not like you’re going to start out at 39.”
It is strange, however, that these runts play so well. McClorey isn’t just thrashing through riffs. He’s spinning adept solos, formed into well-plotted busts. These days, it’s refreshing to hear solos of any kind, outside of jam bands. “Now the guitar is used more to make nice sounds, with special pedals, than to play solos,” McClorey says.
He first showed his handiwork on the band’s self-produced EP, “Young, Gifted& Blue,” in 2012. It consisted of covers by the likes of Slim Harpo and Eddie Holland. The release went No. 1 on the iTunes Blues chart — and stayed there for six weeks.
That led to the band being signed to Elton John’s Rocket Music Management, and later to a contract with Mercury Records. Soon the group was being talked up by the old guard of British rock, including Jeff Beck. “He was lovely, even though he plays one billion times better than all of us put together,” McClorey says. “He told us you just have to practice. That’s how you get better.”
1. "Mystery Man"
2. "Blue Collar Jane"
3. "What the People Don't See"
4. "She's So Fine"
5. "I Can Tell" (Samuel Smith, McDaniel)
6. "Angel Eyes"
7. "Perfect Storm"
8. "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover" (Willie Dixon)
9. "What a Shame"
10. "Hometown Girls"
11. "Heart of the City" (Nick Lowe)
12. "Rollin' and Tumblin'" (Hambone Willie Newbern)
The Strypes don't say much in interviews, but one thing they articulate quite clearly is that they couldn't care less what anyone no longer a teenager thinks of them. Call them derivative – which they are, in a third-hand way, a rehash of the nostalgic 1970s pub-rock rehash of 1950s/60s R&B – and they will shrug and say rock'n'roll was ever thus. They're right, of course, but if anyone is going to choose to listen to their albums over Bo Diddley's they're going to have to learn something fundamental about R&B fast. What gives this music character is innuendo; the Strypes' hormone-free take on You Can't Judge a Book By the Cover shows how little they appreciate this. So does an unintentionally hilarious lyric in their song Blue Collar Jane: "She just wants the milk and sugar but all I want is her", in which the milk and sugar really are just the stuff you put in tea. That lack of nuance characterises their playing, too: it's all meaty, squalling guitar riffs, foghorn blasts of harmonica, and a confusion of solid speed with actual excitement.
The Strypes' unlikely combination of teens playing music inspired by pub rock and the blues drew equal amounts of hype and goodwill from a constellation of rock stars. Before they even released their debut album, they'd signed to Elton John's management company, toured with the Arctic Monkeys, played with Paul Weller, and counted Roger Daltrey, Dave Grohl, and Noel Gallagher as fan club members.
This who's-who of support, and Snapshot itself, often feel like a last-ditch effort to get 21st century kids into rock instead of the rap, dance, and pop that captured their imagination (and the charts). Regardless of the hype and hopes surrounding the album, it reveals that the Strypes love and are well-versed in the sounds of British blues-rock, pub rock, and the blues musicians who started it all.
However, this studious nature is a blessing and a curse: the band knows how to make three chords crackle, and they're just as tight, if not tighter, than players with decades more practice -- witness Ross Farrelly's harmonica solo on "Blue Collar Jane" or Josh McClorey's guitar work on "What the People Don't See" and "Heart of the City" -- but they often feel too reverent of the past to give these songs the grit they need.
This is especially true on their covers of Bo Diddley's "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover" and Muddy Waters' "Rollin' & Tumblin'," both of which feel more like enthusiastic simulations than genuine performances. This may be due in part to the production by Chris Thomas (who also worked with the Beatles and the Sex Pistols).
While Snapshot's sound isn't slick, it lacks in-the-red realness that makes the Strypes' more recent elders like the Black Keys and Jack White so riveting at their best. And while the band may shrug off Beatles comparisons, the boyish energy with which they bound through these songs evokes a particularly well-recorded night at the Cavern Club. Like the Fab Four during that time, the Strypes sound the most confident on their own songs.
There's a bit of a young Liam Gallagher's sneer to Farrelly's voice on "Perfect Storm" (no wonder the band recruited him after hearing his version of "Wonderwall"), and he sounds anything but timid despite his complaints on "Hometown Girls." Elsewhere, the Strypes flex their songwriting chops on "What a Shame," where tightly coiled verses unleash bashed-out choruses. Snapshot might be more successful at reassuring rock fans of a certain age that some young people find sounds three or four times older than them exciting than it is at getting kids excited about bluesy rock. Taken on its own terms, though, it's a solid debut from a band that can only benefit from more experience.
The unfeasible precocity of The Strypes illustrates the time-telescoping effect of YouTube culture. With virtually the entire history of music just a mouse-click away, today’s young rock obsessive requires only the desire to hear something brilliant, and the taste to recognise brilliance when they hear it. As Elton John noted of The Strypes, these callow Irish lads have amassed as much knowledge about rhythm and blues at 16 as he has in six decades.
Of course, it takes something else to translate that love of blues into music as compelling as Snapshot, an album of roughneck guitar R’n’B that recalls by turns the Eel Pie Island sound of the early Stones and Yardbirds and, in the bullish energy and peremptory tone of songs like “Mystery Man”, the proto-punk drive of Dr Feelgood.
That track opens the album with a snarling howl of feedback which tips over into a pell-mell rush of riffing guitar and wailing blues-harp, and things never let up from that point. “Blue Collar Jane”, the single about a girl who “never wears her hair up ’cos she’s always dressing down”, continues in similarly taut, edgy vein, its impact brutal. (The album is produced by Chris Thomas, who rendered the Sex Pistols with such surly power, so the sound of Snapshot comes at you like a tiger.)
It’s one dizzying burst of energy after another: “She’s So Fine” bursts in like a car careering out of control, while the hurtling momentum of their cover of Bo Diddley’s “You Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover” is punctuated with tiny little guitar fills that are like sonic exclamation marks, just one element of guitarist Josh McClorey’s arsenal of techniques. On “I Can Tell”, he emulates the choppy, bitten-off rhythm style of the Feelgoods’ Wilko Johnson, while the calm fluidity of his work on the slower blues “Angel Eyes” brings to mind Peter Green.
But it’s a band performance, first and foremost, whether they’re raving through Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” at a furious pace, or bewailing their shyness in “Hometown Girls”: a sound which, to borrow Ross Farrelly’s apt self-description, “reeks of sweat and teenage innocence”.
You'd think Miley Cyrus' sudden reinvention as a lurid wet pop dream that should really only exist in the mind of Gene Simmons is about as cynical as it gets. Alas, the former Hannah Montana ain't got nothin' on The Strypes, a band of Savile Row-suited tykes who seemingly stumbled upon their parents’ record collection and decided to give it a go.
Any related literature tends to focus quite heavily on their age, so let’s get that one out of that way quickly - they’re young. They’re young and their music is old. That’s it. That’s the entire gimmick. And boy, is it ever a gimmick. I hate it when someone gives away the ending, but if The Strypes are still a going concern when they hit the big three-zero, well that’s a twist worthy of Shyamalan.
It’s depressing but sadly not all that difficult to see why they boast celebrity fans such as Dave Grohl, Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, Elton John and the great Stewart Lee, nor why some sections of their fan base react so rabidly to any slights levelled at the band. The Strypes are a mechanical device, a tool for nostalgia disciples to live vicariously through. Originality isn’t important here (which is helpful, as there is none), rather strict dedication to regurgitation and how dare you if you have a problem with a bunch of teenagers rocking out like it’s the Swinging Sixties all over again?
Snapshot opens as it means to go on, the boys riding in on the same shamelessly derivative wave of feedback not heard since Jet washed up on our shore a decade ago. ‘Mystery Man’ borrows liberally from just about everything it needs to, but will probably just make you wish you were listening to ‘Fell in Love with a Girl’ instead. ‘Blue Collar Jane’, meanwhile, is all creepy swagger, a bouncy ode to a hip young dead-eyed thing, tragically out of reach. Actual lyrics: “Blue collar Jane lives in 54, Always has a teacup when she knocks upon my door/She just wants some milk and sugar but all I want is her, Blue collar Jane, my girl, you're causing quite a stir”
Actual lyrics. And on it goes, guitars, drums, harmonicas all blazing as the boys howl from one tired subject to another at a pace that clumsily alternates between breakneck and languid. ‘Angel Eyes’, a tribute to the The Good, the Bad and the Ugly villain of the same name, proves an absolute crawl. On the other end of the spectrum, the migraine-inducing ‘She’s So Fine’ is little more than noise, a seemingly endless two minutes and 20 seconds capped off with some muck about how “She float like a bee but she sting like a butterfly”. Not even Kanye could make that work. He also probably wouldn’t get away with butchering Bo Diddley’s ‘I Can Tell’ and nor should The Strypes who seem to take joy in taking a classic and kicking it down a flight of stairs.
Covers are nothing new for the Irish outfit, of course. Having made their name with sets mostly made up of other people’s music, The Strypes could hardly pass up the opportunity to follow suit on their major label debut. Snapshot features a handful, something the band have defended by shrugging apathetically and pointing out that both the Rolling Stones and their beloved Dr. Feelgood did the same in their early days. Sound argument, only there’s zero indication that The Strypes will one day forge their own path, or even care enough to. Their debut is just minute after minute of hollow pandering. One Direction are more rock and roll.
Snapshot is a record devoid of hope. A vacuum where merit and meaning die slow. The Strypes wield their instruments with gusto, it’s probably not entirely their own fault and it takes brass balls for a band this transparent to chuck in a - actually tolerable, hooray! - version of ‘You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover’. So that’s three points. Shame about everything else.
The Strypes: 'We always knew that you had to practise for months, get in a van and do 200 gigs…'
There's a temptation to slip into strange behaviour when interviewing teenagers. These old interviews, eh, guys? BO-RING! It makes you wonder what Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson had to put up with in their early days. With the exception of One Direction, child pop groups are a rare form of entertainment now, like beauty pageants or circuses. But as the Strypes show, the novelty in looking at a small, perfect version of something that is usually bigger will always be thrilling. Their first single Blue Collar Jane broke from YouTube into the world of Later… with Jools Holland, Noel Gallagher has been seen at their gigs and, not for the first time in the last 10 years, rock'n'roll is said to be saved. If only the lead singer would speak!
Sixteen-year-old Ross Farrelly is the most striking member of the Irish foursome, for his voice – a big pub-rock blast without the slightest hint of a transitional wobble – and for his big sunglasses, which he wears at all times on stage like Roy Orbison. "That came from when he did his first gig," says guitarist Josh McClorey (17) who appears to speak for him. "He was quite nervous and he didn't really know where to place his eyes." Ross opens his eyes very wide and pushes his lips together, fingering the corner of the table in the Marylebone cafe. "He can't leave school yet," continues Ross. "He's got a couple more months but he's barely there, he just goes in when he can…"
The rest of the band, aged 16 and 17, dropped out of school in October last year just before they were signed to Elton John's Rocket Music Entertainment Group. "People think he came to our house," says Pete, who plays with his bass slung up round his throat like John Entwistle and chats like an old man on a bus. "He did actually come to a gig in Brighton – a lot of people thought it was an impersonator. We'd been travelling around Ireland for months before there was any talk of record company interest, so it's not this big shock. It looks that way to the outside world – which is why people have this idea that it can't be real."
The Strypes have already come in line for a degree of message-board sniping because they model their sound on Dr Feelgood, the Yardbirds and the Animals (among others) and have not invented a music utterly new to the human ear. Their live show is a bowel-shaking rhythm'n'blues explosion delivered with humour and vim, betraying an obsessive interest in the musical heritage they're mining.
They've been playing together in the drummer Evan Walsh's bedroom since they were 13 and 14; they grew up in the town of Cavan in Ulster, famous for its railway connections and its closed, contemplative order of nuns. They played a lot of festivals, Pete explains – by which it becomes apparent he means family days out, "opposite the bouncy castle while the announcer is going: 'The Gaelic under-14s match is starting…'"
"We always knew that you had to practise for six months, get in a van and do 200 gigs and play everywhere that would have you," says Josh, and that's what they did, driven by Evan's dad, Niall, the band's official "guardian". In October 2011 they put a self-made EP on iTunes and the next day it was top of the blues chart. Various record contracts were discussed over a nine-month period until they got the one they wanted. Which still doesn't answer the question of why 14-year-olds decided that Chas Chandler and Lee Brilleaux would become their musical heroes, and how they found out about all this stuff in the first place. Is this where Spotify comes in?
"We didn't have Spotify in our day," corrects Pete. "We always loved the 60s and 70s bands," says Josh, "but then we researched the stuff they were covering on YouTube – Bo Diddley, Howlin' Wolf, Charley Patton. Now you've got Jon Spencer, Jack White, Gary Clark Jr – it's a trail that never runs out."
Is it depressing to hear people going on about how there's no good new music? "It is all new to us," says Josh. "Actually I'm inclined to agree that the past looks a lot better," says Evan. "And it's interesting, that whole discussion – it is all a kind of documentary for us."
You wonder what Roger Daltrey might have said in an interview at 16. Young musicians are not starry-eyed today, if they ever were – they know how fast the public's attention moves on. Still, I can't help but ask them about their introduction to the rock'n'roll lifestyle, the girls and the backstage shows. As soon as do, I feel like one of those 1980s children's TV presenters in dungarees leaping up and down for an invisible audience. "We don't have backstage parties," says Evan. "I can't speak for the lads, but I go to bed. I drink a lot of water and go to bed. I'm quite set in my ways."
Rising Irish rock band The Strypes played the Late Show with David Letterman last night, and guess what happened? Ol’ Dave found a new favorite band to go along with the likes of Future Islands, Little Dragon, The Orwells, and Cage the Elephant.
The Strypes’ performance of “What A Shame” was met with unabashed enthusiasm, as Letterman appeared to almost hyperventilate as he exclaimed “Yeah!” “How about that!” and “Money!”. The band seemed a little too unfazed by his reaction, which is strange considering what they now have to look forward to. “I’m very excited,” Letterman explained. “Before the show I said if this goes well, I’ll take you all to play laser tag.”
The 18-and-under Irish import is getting as much flak as praise for a terrifically derivative debut, just released stateside. But on stage, their rock 'n' roll instincts cannot be denied.
How fitting that Irish teenagers the Strypes would make their first splash in America at roughly the same time the British Invasion took the nation by storm 50 years ago. And how appropriate that what may be the band’s biggest breakout moment stateside – blasting through the single “What a Shame” fast and furious last week on Late Night with David Letterman – took place in the same spot where the younger Stones, Animals and more forebears left lastingly deep impacts in the mid-’60s on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Combined with the U.S. release last month of their debut disc, Snapshot, and an invigorating finish to their first extensive North American tour Tuesday night at El Rey Theatre, these lads, none old enough to drink here, have arrived bearing the same timely reminder that disciples from Jack White to Jet delivered when they caught fire a decade ago. The restated principle: frenzy-inducing rock ’n’ roll never dies, whether homegrown or imported. What elicited ecstasy back then can still thrill now.
Though their popularity grew throughout Britain last year, the Strypes aren’t, of course, a U.K. group; they’re from Cavan, near the Northern Ireland divide. That’s where, throughout their still-developing youth, they devoured blues and rock classics more than literature or math, forming a band as a means of unabashedly reviving a past handed down from their parents. It would be a goof or a lark if they didn't have such slavishly infectious intensity, a strange authenticity that almost immediately attracted them a devoted following, rapidly acquired at rip-it-up shows like this week’s startling return to L.A. (They already tore up the Troubadour in January.)
They are remarkably fresh-faced: affable and already sharp-skilled guitarist Josh McClorey is the oldest at 18 and a half; vocalist Ross Farrelly, who broods behind shades like Liam Gallagher remodeled into a young Eric Burdon, is but 16. Most of them have been practicing in drummer Evan Walsh’s bedroom since they were 9, studying Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley licks and learning obscurities (to Americans, that is) from their fave pub-rockers, Dr. Feelgood. Preternaturally, they have developed into a fiercely aggressive, Savile Row replica of the first-album Stones at their speediest, harmonica howls and all. Not since the Hives has pure rock ’n’ roll come so accelerated. Alvin Lee would be proud.
Despite (or perhaps because of) their novel age factor, they have attracted A-list support from across the Irish Sea.
Godfathers of English rock from Roger Daltrey to Jeff Beck (whose work with the Yardbirds is another clear influence) and from Paul Weller to Noel Gallagher have declared their admiration. Weller, who from his Jam days knows more than most what it’s like to be a precocious sensation, went so far as to enlist the band for an adrenalized version of his T. Rex-y rocker “Woodcutter’s Son” at a Record Store Day appearance in London last April. (Even at its most soulful, that groove can go slack in its author’s hands. But as they proved at the El Rey with their own slightly slower number, the swaggering “Angel Eyes,” the Strypes don’t do sluggish.)
Elton John, one of their first fans, signed them to his Rocket management company after a 2012 covers EP became an unexpected iTunes success and a black-and-white YouTube video of them performing Slim Harpo’s “Got Love If You Want It” went viral. (They did that tune again Tuesday night, with genuine snarl, though it became a showcase for bassist Pete O'Hanlon, who, in a moment of rotated instruments, served up a hard-huffing, hair-flailing harmonica solo.) “You want to pinch yourself looking at these kids playing this music,” Sir Elton enthused to the U.K.’s Telegraph. “It’s kind of otherworldly. Their musical knowledge of R&B and blues is at least equal to mine and probably Mick (Jagger)’s or Rod (Stewart)’s, and we’ve been around for centuries.”
That’s got to be hyperbole, but this is the sort of rare find for which exaggeration comes easy. I don’t know a friend or colleague on hand for this show who wasn’t blown away; skeptics, and they are not few, came out convinced believers, though that also meant this very industry-heavy crowd never really provided the explosive energy I bet the Strypes are accustomed to causing at home. It’s a shame they won’t be wowing in the heat at Coachella, nor at this point do they have any summer dates planned in the States. Sweating it out at festivals is how the group might really grab the most attention.
Their highly enjoyable first effort is great fun, a manicured blast that nonetheless isn’t quite the grenade that early White Stripes and Black Keys records were. At least the Strypes (so spelled to salute groups like the Byrds and others who deliberately misspelled their names) had the good fortune to work with a master, Chris Thomas, the legendary producer who helped concoct the muscular attack of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols and who was instrumental behind the boards during the early days of Roxy Music and Pretenders, among others.
Still, once you see the group live, you realize what a disappointment the debut is, too. If you caught their air-tight Letterman performance of “What a Shame,” you know why: A two-minute barnstormer played with gum-smacking confidence out of McClorey and magnetism from a frontman who’s reportedly quite shy (and admits as much in the rollicking “Hometown Girls”), the clip proves what they’re capable of. The exhilarating El Rey set, played at deafening volume, was more of the same but let loose, spiked by raucous renditions of the Specials’ “Concrete Jungle” and Nick Lowe’s “Heart of the City” – or going back further, Willie Dixon’s “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover,” Farrelly’s vocals growing noticeably reminiscent of Alex Turner's.
More crucially, the breakneck pace applied not just to revved-up originals like “Mystery Man” but to every song. Just as some of the best blues- and boogie-rock outfits did, the Strypes get way more revved-up live than they do (so far) on record. Plenty of critics (like this one at Drowned in Sound) have been having a grand time putting down their debut as cute, overly derivative, not as good as the real thing – and it’s indeed all of that, too. I’ve not seen the same reaction to them live, however, and that's where you can tell the real deal from a Jet. It’s hardly surprising, seeing how they’ve reached rock ’n’ roll dexterity so rigorously, that theirs is the same relentless energy that's so difficult to accurately capture in the studio now as it was when their elders were trying to figure it out.
They’re a band worth believing in. But we have been down this road before. Sometimes it leads to palace gates (behold Arctic Monkeys headlining Staples Center this August), and sometimes it goes nowhere (oh, the wasted promise of the Libertines). So be careful, boys. Listen to your mentors. And if you aren’t going to take your exams, then at least advance your rock studies. The Stones spent a few albums growing up, but by the end of their formative period had reached Aftermath and Between the Buttons – and a few more after that they were redefining the form entirely. The Kinks, don't forget, went from “You Really Got Me” to “Waterloo Sunset” in just three years.
Don’t be like Oasis and run out of ideas in that same amount of time. Be like Page and Plant: start with the blues, then explore and expand.
Good, solid and pure rock-n-roll is hard to come by these days. Growing up in Cavan, Ireland, The Strypes were pretty much born with instruments in their hands. Heavily influenced by Dr. Feelgood, Yardbirds, etc., they have have been compared to the greats of the 60s and 70s and for good reason.
The young quartet have dusted off sounds that are bringing together fans of all ages. But this isn’t to say they are necessarily “old school.” They bring their own spin to this generation.
David Letterman may or may not have taken them out for laser tag, but their performance of “What a Shame” caused quite a buzz over the internet.
Ross Farrelly (lead vocals/harmonica), Josh McClorey (lead guitar/vocals), Pete O’Hanlon (bass guitar/harmonica) and Evan Walsh (drums) not only do covers of some of the greats like Bo Didley, Ramones, and others, but they have been writing their own songs which fit their own mod style and sound. They have opened for the Arctic Monkeys and are well on their way to their own major success.
I caught them at The Troubadour back in January where industry types were around in suits looking very serious. Considering how fast and hard they play, I was surprised no one was moshing or really moving until I turned around and didn’t see very many of their peers.
Fast forward to this week as The Strypes celebrated the last night of their short, but sweet U.S. tour at the El Rey Theatre, which finally brought all ages to hear what these guys can do.
Although the crowd could have been a little more batshit crazy, the band was much more loose this time around and still played hard and fast.
There is no weak link in this group. As they played The Kinks’ “Louie Louie,” a fan in front asked Farrelly if he could come up on stage. He pulled him up and then a few more fans hopped up to dance. Their debut album Snapshot is out now and are some good tunes for your drive to Coachella.
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