Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Struts' 'Everybody Wants' - Album Review

The Struts have been making waves in the rock world this year and, now their debut album Everybody Wants has been released, I am sure those waves are sure to grow. The band is largely the collaboration of two songwriters: frontman Luke Spiller and guitarist Adam Slack; and their talents, plus a few outside writers, are the basis for this album. This is a band with their feet in two separate camps. On the one hand, there is a lot about contemporary indie rock in their sound. The instrumentation is fairly basic without too many frills with simple, catchy melodies that get stuck in your head. On the other hand however, is a huge dose of classic rock - particularly the glam rock scene of the early 1970s. Bands like T.Rex, Queen, and artists like David Bowie have clearly been a big influence on The Struts, and Spiller in particularly whose outfits and stage presence borrows a lot from this era. Imagine a mix of those bands with more modern bands like the Kaiser Chiefs, and you will not be too far away from what The Struts are about. Because of this mix of sounds, The Struts have the potential for a lot of crossover appeal. Fans of hard rock and metal will appreciate the influence of many of the genre's classic bands in their sound; while younger fans will enjoy the energy of modern indie that is retained throughout the album. The band have already been gaining a few high-profile fans in their short time together which is never a bad thing. Spiller provided all the lead vocals on Mike Oldfield's latest album Man on the Rocks which was released earlier this year; and the band have even supported The Rolling Stones in France. Such publicity and exposure so early in their career will hopefully spur them on to great success and this album will certainly help them along with that. As well as Spiller and Slack, The Struts also contains bassist Jed Elliot and drummer Gethin Davis - although this rhythm section barely appears on the album at all. I am not sure if this is because the majority of the album's songs were written and recorded before the actual band was properly formed, but the pair only feature on one song, the single Put Your Money on Me. Hopefully, in the future, these two will be properly integrated into the recording process of any new material as it is always nice to see a full band working in the studio rather than a host of hired guns!

The album opens with Roll Up which is the most flamboyant and overtly 'rock' song present. Spiller's vocals open the song before the music slowly builds up around him with some simple guitar lines from Slack to accompany him. Shortly after the drums kick in and Slack moves over to some nice chunky power chords while some bright piano cuts through the mix providing a good backing. The chorus is excellent and full of punkish energy while maintaining that glam sheen. It is an excellent intro to the album and gets things off to a rocking start. Could Have Been Me has been around on Youtube for quite a while and possesses more of an indie vibe about with some more jangly guitar sounds and an anthemic chorus. Spiller really owns this song and stops it from becoming a generic indie stomper. His is voice is far more distinctive than many of the bland, nasally indie frontmen out there, and he has a genuinely musical vocal delivery. Kiss This is another song that has been around for a while and was released on an EP of the same name earlier this year. Again, there is a big indie influence going on here, but the groovy guitar riffing and huge basslines give it a really danceable rhythm that makes it a great live number. The chorus is another catchy one, and some good use of obnoxious electronics during it work even though they probably should not! Put Your Money on Me is the main promotional single for the album and, as I said earlier, is the only song on the album to feature all four members of The Struts. If this is the sort of material the band is planning to make going forward then I am sure future albums will be excellent. The opening guitar leads have a slight country feel before it evolves into a soft-rock tune with a nice rhythm and a chorus with plenty of chances for audience participation live. Slack's subtle lead guitar throughout the song works well to create extra melodies, and he even gets a short, yet very simple, guitar solo towards the end that gives us a break from the usual strummed chords. She Makes me Feel was described by Spiller when I saw them live as 'this year's summer anthem', and I can see what he means. It is a little too saccharine for me, but you cannot deny the catchiness of the main melodies during the choruses. This song lacks the grit of the rest of the album so far and ends up sounding like the poppy indie songs that clog up Radio 1 these days. Catchy, but certainly the least interesting song so far.

My Machine sees the welcome return of the rock. It is a real driving rock song with some excellent pulsing synthesisers and discordant guitar tones. There is something about very early Queen that rings throughout this song. Imagine Stone Cold Crazy with a bigger chorus and you will get the idea what this song sounds like. It's an energetic number that you cannot help but really enjoy as it grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. You & I is a slower track with an excellent acoustic guitar-driven verse and a gentle chorus that works well to get under your skin. Again, this one is a little too close to true indie to be a real favourite of mine, but helps give the album a slight change of pace, and is surprisingly moody for a song so melodic. Dirty Sexy Money is another foot-tapping track that relies on a funky bassline to drive the song, but the choruses are much more guitar-driven and bring the classic rock element back to the sound. There is more use of electronics throughout this song to give it a nice modern feel, and a short guitar solo backed up by some pounding piano chords helps to take us back to the 1970s with it's Queen-like tendencies. It is a sleazy little song that is sure to get people dancing. Let's Make it Happen Tonight is the only song on the album that does not really do it for me on any level at all. The main guitar riff is quite nice, but the rest of the song is pretty dreary and has very little about it that stands out. It plods along without ever amounting to anything and is, in truth, the album's only real dud. Luckily, Black Swan follows it and it is one of the album's best songs! It starts with some frantic clean guitars while Spiller almost croons over the top of them, but you just know that the energy is going to build up. Drums come in after a short while and the song just builds and builds and climaxes with a really doozy of a chorus! Again, it is simple but the melodies are so catchy and Spiller sings with powerful conviction. This song should be released as a single, as I reckon they could catch a lot of hard rock fans with this gritty little tune. The album comes to an end with another good song: Where Did She Go. This is proper anthemic rock 'n' roll with a huge sing-a-long chorus and some tight riffing from Slack. Songs like this make excellent album (and indeed set) closers as the energy and fun vibes just work in that respect. Overall, this is a really solid debut album from a band that I suspect will go far. I hope that they do not get chewed up too much by their label and forced to go in certain, poppier directions - as it is the rock influence here that makes them unique and interesting.

The album was released on 28th July 2014 via Virgin EMI Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Put Your Money on Me.

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