Rock & Pop Critiques For Geeks

“I have no idea what aeolian cadences are........they sound like exotic birds”    John Lennon



The Strypes - Live at the Electric Ballroom (12 Sept 2013)

The new kings of raucous rock ‘n’ roll conquer Camden. Dominic Pedler brings you a er.. snapshot of a euphoric night in north London.

“We could be the perfect storm,” sing The Strypes on one of the many stunning songs on their long-awaited debut album, Snapshot, released just a few days before they swaggered on stage in Camden.

With their exhilarating mix of youthful exuberance, intense energy, brilliant musicianship and celebrity fan base, the stars are certainly neatly aligned for the new standard bearers of scorching rhythm ‘n’ blues.

In the heady wake of Snapshot, this gig marked The Strypes’ transition from cult heroes to fully-fledged commercial artists ahead of their stadium tour supporting the Arctic Monkeys, this autumn.

Sure, The Strypes had already taken Glastonbury earlier this year but here was the last chance for a while, to see the band in the intimate club surroundings to which their music is surely best suited.

In for a treat tonight was a Camden crowd that included new additions to the band’s A-List followers that already boasts Sir Elton John, Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller and Dave Grohl – not forgetting Squeeze legend, Chris Difford, The Strypes’ ‘mentor’ seen lurking in the wings. 

Young solo star, John Lennon McCullagh, was a worthy warm up: a rare talent with an imminent album on Alan McGee’s new label. With his Jake Bugg looks and slick fingerpicking style, you’ll be hearing a lot more about him, no question.

But the night belonged to The Strypes, who hit the ground running with Mystery Man, the supercharged album opener which, in normal circumstances, would be saved for the grand finale. But these aren’t normal circumstances. So strong is The Strypes’ repertoire - which takes in far more than their album and brace of EPs - that they can happily start and end with virtually any song on the set list.

Indeed, much of the hype is how The Strypes seem to have the history of rock ‘n’ roll at their fingertips and duly spice their sets with a collection of covers and slick standards dating to all formative eras of the genre. 

Among those tonight are the Chicago Blues of Willie Dixon’s You Can’t Judge A Book, the ballsy R&B standard I’m A Hog For You Baby, the West Coast strains of Canned Heat’s Going Up The Country and the Delta classic, Rollin’ & Tumblin’ that’s rapidly becoming the signature set closer.

But any suggestions that the Irish stars are just today’s coolest covers band is dispelled by the stack of quality originals that grace both the album and the set itself - with at least three contenders for our Song Of The Year.

The bouncy Blue Collar Jane, the band’s debut single from March (and a YouTube hit since last year’s RTE footage) would seem a hard act to follow. But The Strypes have managed it, starting with the breathless workout of Mystery Man – a bastard descendent of Dr Feelgood’s She Does It Right (though slightly marred tonight by the muted sound mix that takes three songs to correct).

It’s a reminder that The Strypes are far more than a rehash of early sixties Stones and Yardbirds.

Yes, they draw unashamedly on that era. But in terms of their delivery, attitude, sound and style, far more relevant touchstones are the MC5, the driving pub rock of Nine Below Zero and the Feelgoods - and (taking us right up to date) the modern rock ‘n’ roll onslaught of The Jim Jones Revue.

Still, just when you think you’ve pigeonholed them, along comes other originals like Angel Eyes and second single, Hometown Girls (incidentally, b/w a rendition of T-Bone Walker’s classic Stormy Monday).

The former is a stirring, slow-burning cautionary tale complete with a twangy Spaghetti Western tribute to Lee Van Cleef, the baddie in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.

At the other extreme, Hometown Girls sees The Strypes crafting a crossover classic with a super-catchy chorus that deserves to top the charts.

Encoring with Chuck Berry’s Little Queenie and a truly incendiary rendition of Route 66, The Strypes electrified the Ballroom, led by guitarist Josh McClorey’s stinging licks on his Gretsch Double Jet, delivered with a flair that defies the fact that he and his band should still be in full-time education.

Talking of which, there was quaint moment when the band switched instruments for Got Love If You Want It and bass player, Pete O’Hanlon, got to showcase his considerable harmonica skills.

Taking centre stage with foot-on-monitor nonchalance, the curly-haired kid proudly drained an entire bottle of (wait for it)....water, to rapturous applause.

Too cool for school - but too young for Jack Daniel’s, it seems the only mood-altering thing on stage at a Strypes gig is the band itself.

And tonight they were 100% proof.

A track-by-track appreciation of The Strypes’ album, Snapshot, will follow in due course.

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