Oh we do like The Strypes be­side the sea­side

A snifter of self-be­lief, a pinch of at­ti­tude, a long stretch of in­flu­ences, a shed­load of mu­si­cal chops and a will to win. Tony Clay­ton-Lea on the mag­i­cal mu­si­cal alchemy of The Strypes

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -

“The most thrilling live band in the UK” - Q. “Fever­ishly in­tense, raw and com­pelling” - UK In­de­pen­dent. “Too good to be ig­nored” - NME. A bowel- shak­ing rhythm’n’blues ex­plo­sion.” - The Ob­server.

Do we de­tect a theme here?

Yes, we cer­tainly do, and we’re not say­ing such hy­per­bole isn’t jus­ti­fied. We’re just point­ing out that all the praise di­rected to­wards Ca­van teenagers The Strypes might not only be too much, too soon, but also that such adu­la­tion may be laced with wide-eyed won­der at how such young lads have man­aged to mas­ter the tricky art of mak­ing what they do seem so ef­fort­less.

Formed in Ca­van a few years ago, the band ini­tially had a re­volv­ing door-pol­icy for mem­ber­ship, but it even­tu­ally set­tled with the nu­cleus of school friends Josh McClorey, Ross Far­relly, Pete O’Hanlon and Evan Walsh – a mu­si­cally gifted bunch (the par­ents of all four had pre­vi­ously been in­volved, in one form or an­other, in var­i­ous bands) who had grav­i­tat­ing to­wards mu­sic even be­fore their pri­mary school­ing was com­pleted.

What puz­zled most, if not all, ob­servers from the be­gin­ning is how such a young band could be so well ac­quainted with their cho­sen mu­sic. Cue the weighty decades-span­ning record collection of Evan’s dad Niall – Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Did­dley, John Lee Hooker, El­more James, Yard­birds, Them, Rolling Stones, An­i­mals, Pretty Things, John May­all’s Blues­break­ers, Dave Ed­munds, Dr Feel­good, Lew Lewis, Ed­die and the Hotrods, The Jam.

Along­side the puz­zle­ment of the choice of mu­sic, how­ever, was a level of be­wil­der­ment at how bril­liantly, and how au­then­ti­cally, the lads could play the mu­sic. What at first seemed like some­thing of a nov­elty (oh, look – fresh-faced teenagers dress­ing up as The Yard­birds!) was quickly re­placed with the re­al­i­sa­tion that The Strypes were the real deal, and not pretty-boy glove pup­pets go­ing through the mo­tions.

And let it be said with clar­ity and sin­cer­ity: each of the mem­bers is an in­cred­i­ble mu­si­cian, and each of them looks like they be­long nowhere else ex­cept in a rock band. Lead gui­tarist McClorey throws out shapes like a spiv and gui­tar lines with pre­ci­sion, poise and im­pres­sive tech­nique; lead vo­cal­ist Far­relly has per­fected a cleaner-cut ver­sion of Dr Feel­good singer, Lee Bril­leaux; drum­mer Walsh has clearly stud­ied Rolling Stones skin-basher Char­lie Watts; and if mine eyes and ears do not de­ceive me (and with hu­mil­ity, read­ers, they do not) O’Hanlon is the most deft R&B bass player I’ve wit­nessed since The Who’s John En­twistle.

So it’s all quite the pack­age, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. It’s a re­sound­ing deliri­ously-bugeyed-happy-puppy-at-the-back-of-the-car nod in a live con­text – it is rare in­deed that you leave a venue with a smile as wide as the bridge con­nect­ing Swe­den and Den­mark. Yet it’s an equally firm, but neg­a­tive, nod of the head when you lis­ten to Snapshot, the band’s de­but al­bum of last year.

Just when you thought that the band might blend its ob­vi­ous re­spect for taut R&B with some kind of lyri­cal con­tem­po­rary nous you’re left won­der­ing why it all sounds so or­di­nary and aver­age. Just when you reck­oned that be­ing cho­sen specif­i­cally by Arc­tic Mon­keys as sup­port band on a sum­mer Euro­pean tour last year might see some of Alex Turner’s lin­guis­tic skills rub off on them, you’re left with nag­ging doubts that The Strypes might just be lit­tle more than shape shifters and smart stu­dents.

And yet, it’s very early days. Time is their friend, and it’ll be quite a few years be­fore any of them need to buy 30-inch-waist jeans. Be­fore that de­press­ing even­tu­al­ity, how­ever, they might want to take a cru­cial leaf out of the Arc­tic Mon­keys’ man­ual: look to words to make the songs mean some­thing more. For a band as po­ten­tially bril­liant as The Strypes, any­thing less would be – cue a rip­ple of blues gui­tar lines – a dirty, cryin’, rot­ten, no-good shame.

The Strypes play the Sea Ses­sions Surf & Mu­sic Fes­ti­val on Satur­day, June 28th

Be­lieve the Strype: Ross Far­relly and Josh McClorey

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