The only thing I have really cared about for the last 10 days is The Strypes! I have listened to their new album multiple times every day since I bought it. They are truly an inspiration to those of us who love rock and roll.
Earlier this year I wrote about The Black Keys and how they were going to help Dave Grohl save rock and roll. The Strypes definitely have a rock and roll agenda, and they are going to make sure that real music doesn’t fade away in the shit pile that is Top 40. I first heard about them when Dave Grohl was interviewing Elton John, and I searched online to find out who they were. But I had the spelling of the band’s name wrong, so I didn’t find anything until a while later. Somewhere I saw their name and a link to a video for “Blue Collar Jane.” Holy shit! They sound like the early Rolling Stones! I excitedly played the song for my mother and one of my sisters as we drove to a baseball game that day. I found a few other videos of theirs and couldn’t listen to anything else.
But where was their album? Surely they had a record deal. With fans like Dave and Elton, there was no way these kids were going to remain in the shadows. Oh, yes—they are kids. Ross Farrelly, Josh McClorey, Pete O’Hanlon, and Evan Walsh are just teenagers, 15 to 17 years old, but they have a passion for rhythm and blues and rock and roll that goes beyond their young age. And they’re Irish. It’s so amazing to me how this music transcends time and space and affects people all over the world.
And that’s exciting. I have written many times before about the fascination British musicians in the 1960s had with black American music, and I’m glad that there are some in this very young generation who are still drawn to old school music. Thank God they are influenced by Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf and not the stuff usually marketed to kids their age! They were raised right, it seems. Like The Strypes, I also learned to appreciate good music by listening to records from my parents’ generation. I am so grateful that these Irish lads took to it.
These kids seem to have their heads on straight. They are musicians, not rock stars, not products of a record company. Pete was spot on when he said this:
“The X Factor (TV show) is not about people wanting to be an artist and share music, it’s just get rich quick, 15 minutes of fame….There’s no artist satisfaction—it’s just going through the motions of getting famous for a couple of months or years. It’s artificial.”
God, how I wish more people felt like this! It’s not easy to become a superstar, of course, but it also cannot be easy to have turned into a brand name, an object that is there solely for the sycophants to whore out. How much integrity can you have? How much self-respect? It makes me sad that these mega-celebrities are so admired and loved, and that young people dream of living that supposedly perfect glamorous life someday. There is something to be said for being an artist who can create whatever they like and not have to answer to anybody.
Snapshot is mostly filled with original compositions, but there are a few covers that the boys perform perfectly. “I Can Tell” is a Bo Diddley song, one I didn’t know before I heard The Strypes do it so fucking well. It’s hard to believe that the guy belting out those deep ohs and yeahs is just a kid! The best part is the way he sings the line “when you come home you stay up reeeeeeeeeal llllllate.” Hot damn! It’s brilliant phrasing.
I was also not familiar with the Nick Lowe song “Heart of the City.” I listened to his version after hearing The Strypes sing it a million times, and I can see how they made it their own. It’s really fast and punk. Love!
My favorite cover on this record is the Willie Dixon-penned “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover,” another song Bo Diddley recorded. I have played The Strypes’ version a few hundred times recently. It’s so fun and cool and old school, and I’m impressed that they handle it so masterfully.
I love their interpretation of Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin’!” They put just the right amount of their own thang in there. The beat is spot on, and the bass part during the call and response with the rest of the band about two minutes in just gives me chills! And the song’s finish is the best way to end a fantastic 36-minute rhythm and blues record.
Every song these guys wrote is so fascinating to me because they sound so old yet fresh and alive. “Blue Collar Jane” legitimately sounds like something the Stones would have performed in 1964. The Strypes, like the Stones and others of their generation, are masters at capturing the essence of a particular song and recreating the spirit of one of the most exciting times in music history. I rarely think that anyone born after 1960 is brilliant, let alone kids who were born when I was in my twenties!
“Angel Eyes” illustrates this point. It’s a slow, melty number about a girl who falls for a bad boy with angel eyes. One of the things I love most is that they name-check Lee Van Cleef.
I’d love to steal your heart away
But baby I’m no thief
Well I can’t be the bad guy
No I ain’t no Lee Van Cleef
I love spaghetti westerns, especially The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Lee Van Cleef played a character named Angel Eyes. You can even hear a few seconds of Ennio Morricone influence after the second time Ross enunciates Lee. Van. Cleef. What 15-year-old Irish kid references a movie like that? I was a kid like that, making obscure pop culture references that nobody understood. I’m so glad The Strypes are like that, too.
I am in love with “What A Shame,” The Strypes’ spot on commentary about all the bullshit that comes with being a superstar.
They told him he was the next
Young son to sum young life,
Straight from the chest,
The way he spat at the mic,
His lyrics couldn’t be fresher,
They said he’d be a superstar
If he could handle the pressure.
After they put it to paper,
They took him to tea,
And told him just a couple changes
That they wanted to see.
Yeah, you’re awesome, they say. Here’s a million-dollar contract. Now lose weight, dye your hair, and change your lyrics. This song explains everything that’s wrong with the music industry. Not that there haven’t been vultures who always wanted to mold new faces into dollar signs, but these days it seems that it is 100% about image and money, so artistry is simply tossed off to the side. Just attract attention to yourself, however you can, they tell fame-hungry innocents. As long as people are talking about you, they’ll spend their money on your shit. It’s gross.
Any kids—or even grown-ass folks—who aspire to be the next big thing, whether it’s in music, movies, TV, or whatever need to take a lesson from The Strypes. They are still ridiculously young and have a lot more to do in their lives, but they have proven that being talented can really get you somewhere. They are not the biggest band in the world as far as name recognition or record sales or magazine covers. But they don’t give a shit about that. They give a shit about music. Hopefully they will inspire others to focus on their art instead of their image.
The Strypes are pied pipers who are leading the next generation back to rock and roll, right where they belong.