Teenage rockers The Strypes are a bit more than just retro-revivalists. Sure their driving rock n’ roll dual guitar and vocal riffs have a direct line to Britain in the 60s, but these lads from Ireland are not shy about flaunting their modern influences too.
This, Little Victories – their sophomore release – takes us from The Yardbirds to Kasabian in a few quick-fire fist pumps. Rollicking opener ‘Get Into It’ kicks things off in spectacular swinging 60s style, complete with drizzling harmonica break. “Love’s easy on the wrist, too heavy for the chest”, sets the theme of this album firmly in the sexed-up adolescent category, but the musicianship is far superior.
We can imagine the boys, swapping propositioning glances with girls at gigs beneath floppy fringes and Ray Bans on ‘I Need To Be Your Only’, as the dirty slide guitar eases in over a boppy, throw your head from side-to-side drumbeat. It’s a radio hit that someone like Aussie pocket-rocket Stevie Wright would’ve smashed out to critical acclaim back in the day.
Having supported their idols the Arctic Monkeys back in 2013 on the back of their explosive debut Snapshot (which saw Sir Elton John, Dave Grohl and Noel Gallagher become fans), Little Victories has a definite Monkeys flavour – albeit much livelier and without the melancholic, musical menace and slow simmer of 2013’s AM.
Singer Ross Farrelly puts on his best Alex Turner smoulder for ‘Cab Fare Home’, as he dares the girl of his fancy to tie her “loose ends” around his neck like a noose. The thumping drum and synchronised guitar combo of ‘Eighty-Four’ would be right at home on Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, and there’s no escaping the similarities between ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor’s’ lyric “dancing to electro-pop like a robot from 1984” and the song title.
Lead guitarist Josh McClorey makes short work of his solo requirements, cruising through song after song with ferocious, fuzzy leads. Bassist and harmonicist Peter O’Hanlon and drummer Evan Walsh do their bit well too, providing the energetic heartbeat of each song with subtle hip-hop and Brit-pop hues.
‘I Wanna Be Your (Everyday)’ opens with an electro intro not unlike the iconic start of ‘Stairway to Heaven’, and the rest of the song trails out with the groovy and grimy haze of a classic blues rock number. ‘Three Streets & A Green Village’ opens with a riff like an aggressive interpretation of ‘Friday On My Mind’, while frontman Farrelly does his best Northern lad impression on ‘Now She’s Gone’. There’s barely a hint of Irish heritage in Farrelly’s voice, which see-saws between bratty and brawny.
Their Brit-pop love comes through in the composition of ‘Cruel Brunette’, a song that is screaming for a live setting. Album closer ‘Scumbag City’ tips its hat to Jake Bugg and Morrissey with its tale of small town dissatisfaction (think its chant worthy “scumbag city blues” refrain), painting a picture of muddy kids running riot through derelict council estates circa post War Britain.
The Strypes are certainly making their presence known. They don’t hide their musical influences, on the contrary, they show them off, and to great effect. The boys take bits and pieces of last century bona fide rock n’ roll and re-work them, utilising all the instrumental effects and first world problems that modernity provides. The boys are snazzy, the songs are sassy, and Little Victories is a solid second offering. It’ll sound even better live, I imagine.
Little Victories is out today via EMI Music Australia.