The glam rockers third studio release puts party tunes on the back burner and lasers in on finding redemption, connection.
The Struts have gone around the globe a time or two since “Could Have Been Me.”
They’ve landed a handful of alt rock radio hits. Earned some street cred when they opened up for the Foo Fighters.
Corporate America has had their way with them, but The Struts are finally coming into their own thanks to some steady star power and personal indulgence.
Its obvious that The Struts are in prime form when they’re up on stage. They’ve managed to get their fix this summer with a few drive-in concerts here and there, but are letting the music do the real talking this year.
Which is why it may seem odd to go with a blast of brit pop for an album opener.
“Strange Days” is nostalgic for all the right reasons, yet totally of its time. Robbie Williams – formerly of boy band Take That and known for his mega-successful solo career in England – brings out a softer side to The Struts that’s worth revisiting.
They’ve tip-toed with a similar sounds in something like “Somebody New,” but it’s nice to see them dive in head first. Which proves there can be a large quality to the music without it being an in-our-face-tooth-snarling rocker.
A song that’s more welcome territory – “All Dressed Up (With Nowhere To Go)” – has singer Luke Spiller lamenting over lost looks, practically screaming at the mirror. It sounds as if every glam rock staple was put in a blender, for better or for worse.
Some “Woman From Tokyo” backbone carries the song, but its the crunchy T. Rex sound effects and Brian Ferry brass that save it from becoming total lofty indulgence (as ironic as that sounds).
On the flip side of that, the band goes total hambone with some help from Joe Elloitt and Phil Collen from Def Leppard. A phone call between mates has Spiller requesting Elliot’s “big old pipes,” snarling like Austin Powers.
“I Hate How Much I Want You” isn’t the song that members of Def Leppard should be playing on, but perhaps they did this to themselves.
The Struts are at their best when they don’t overcomplicate things, and “Another Hit of Showmanship” is right in their wheelhouse.
The song that most encapsulates Spiller’s onstage persona is tightly tuned thanks to the reliable skills of The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr. There’s a loudness to the song but you can’t help but feel the prongs and pains Spiller endures after every performance: “It gets me and the night never ends/But it’s getting harder to mend.”
Its these intimate moments that suit The Struts. The man behind the curtain is often more interesting than the Wizard.
2020 was destined to be the reformation of many bands like The Black Crowes: Chris and Rich Robinson finally rejoining forces. But it seems The Struts may have beat them to it.
The track “Burn It Down” echoes the achily raucous power of that late 90s rock revival, while fit to go toe-to-toe with the pop ballad output of Ed Sheeran.
But The Struts aren’t comfortable sticking around this sound, they have to pivot and be even more over-the-top and, in turn, predictable.
A song like “Wild Child” is Arctic Monkeys AM leather-level sexy, but it sounds like every other fuzzy single by a midlevel rock band over the past two years. And Tom fucking Morello?! He shows up at the tail end of this track to jam in some licks. It fairs as an overall unnecessary and underutilized feature.
And there’s a cover on this album, a Kiss one: “Do You Love Me.” Its wrong for several reasons, I just don’t know why they felt they had to throw it on here. It reeks of record company fodder playing towards an America’s Got Talent performance. They really need to stay away from reality TV for awhile, get their zest back.
The Struts are able to bring things back around, though.
Disco-pitched “ooh’s” and “ah’s” and a super slinky groove make closer “Am I Talking To The Champagne (Or Talking To You)” fit for a retro Bond outfit. The lavish grandeur of the song plays like putty in the hands of each bandmate.
And its damn near edible.
Strange Days hits the spot when there’s less glitz, and more gusto.