London – Put simply, 2013 has been a brilliant year for The Strypes. After being hotly tipped by almost everybody in the British media, the boys from Cavan, Ireland signed a five-album deal with Virgin EMI records after originally being picked up by Elton John’s management company, securing an impressive vote of confidence for an as-yet unproven group of teenagers.
Debut album, “Snapshot”, was finally released amid a great deal of hype in late September following stellar performances all over Europe, including slots at Rock AM Ring and the legendary Glastonbury festival. Already renowned for their youthful exuberance, the challenge was always going to bringing their live energy onto a record. However, The Strypes needn’t have worried as from the first note of “Mystery Man” through to album closer “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”, a cover of the Hambone Willie Newbern track, Snapshot doesn’t once pause for breath. In truth, it’s a virtue of their young years, but the boys sound as though they have put everything possible into the recording of this album. Often in music of this genre there’s in inverse correlation between the tempo of a track and it’s quality, with far too many bands playing crap songs at breakneck speeds to mask musical inadequacies. However, whilst the drums are quick and the guitars are wailing, you never once get the sense that The Strypes aren’t in control.
Second track “Blue Collar Jane” was a single release earlier in the year with the band performing an awesome live version on the Late Late Show in Ireland as well as on Later … With Jools Holland on the BBC and an acoustic rendition in a basement session for the NME. It’s as near to a perfect rock ‘n’ roll song as your going to find, with a spelled-out title in the chorus to put Noah and the Whale’s “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” to shame. The lyrics, whilst witty, seem earnest, and The Strypes have avoided the pitfall of trying to be ‘too cool’ by singing about all the sex and drugs which probably haven’t yet been a major part in their young lives.
At points, Snapshot, is almost Beatles-esq with some impressive shared vocals between singer Ross Farrelly and lead guitarist Josh McClorey, not to mention the best use of a harmonica since The Libertines’ effort at the end of “Can’t Stand Me Now”. “She’s So Fine” is a great example of this and as with most of songs on the album could as easily fit on an Arctic Monkeys record, as it could a Chuck Berry one. However, whilst the band evidently draw inspiration from Chuck and his 60’s counterparts, they manage to still sound current, despite a few covers on the album to compliment their own material, including the aforementioned “Rolling and Tumblin’”, Willie Dixon’s “You Can’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover” and Nick Lowe’s “Heart of the City”.
After the Willie Dixon track comes “What a Shame”, another fantastic display of musicality with back and forth guitars reminiscent of a Bloc Party / dueling banjos mashup. This is followed by “Hometown Girls” on which Farrelly sings, “I reek of sweat and teenage innocence”. Whilst I have no wish to comment on his hygiene, one suspects that after the commercial success of Snapshot (already reaching the top 5 in both the UK and Ireland) and an upcoming stadium tour with Arctic Monkeys, that innocence may not be around for long.
Irrespective of the band’s age, or indeed it being a debut release, Snapshot is a brilliant album. Almost every song could hold it’s own as a single, and the boys have already amassed a star studded fan base with Noel Gallagher, Dave Grohl, Paul Weller and even Jeff Beck singing their praises. Whether you wish to categorize them as ‘Rock n Roll’, ‘Rhythm and Beat’, ‘Blues’ or just straight up guitar rock, the boys evidently know their music inside out with Elton John himself saying recently that “They have a knowledge of R&B and blues at 16 years of age that I have only amassed in my 65 years”. That’s just about as impressive and accolade you can get, and I for one am not gonna argue with the Rocket Man.