The Strypes’ “Spitting Image” Is A Spitting Image of Brilliance

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I know it’s been quite a while since I posted two blog posts in one week, but I figured that it was high time I blogged about one of my favorite bands from this decade, The Strypes. If you happened to see the movie ‘Sing Street’ last year, about a teenage band from Ireland who is trying to make it big, this band is essentially the real-life version of Sing Street. They’re all Irish and around 20 years old, but instead of drawing from 80s bands like Duran Duran, they reach farther back in their bucket of influences to the blues, the Rolling Stones, Nick Lowe, and other artists from the 60s and 70s. I’ve been following them since their first album, Snapshot, came out in 2014. That album was much rawer and more bluesy than this album, which feels more fully produced. I also recently became aware of their sophomore album, Little Victories, which came out in 2015 but is not available on iTunes or Spotify. Out of the few songs I’ve listened to on that album, “Get Into It” is a standout, and I may end up buying the CD on Amazon and uploading it to iTunes to hear it in its entirety.

One memorable moment from their promotion of Snapshot came when they performed on The Late Show with David Letterman, which I believe was their live debut on American television. Take a look at that here, and notice how fired up David Letterman is after their performance. I don’t blame him, I bet they’d be electrifying to see live.

However, though I enjoyed their loud, unapologetic rock ‘n roll sound from Snapshot, I think that Spitting Image is a huge step forward for them musically. Their lyrics are more mature and complex here, they dabble with musical elements like a saxophone solo, harmonicas, keyboards, and more, and in general their sound feels a bit more modern and acoustic. They still sound delightfully retro to me though, which is one of the things I love most about them. Song after song on this album is musically interesting, and when I first listened to it, I couldn’t believe I was hearing an album that was released this year. It sounded like it should have been released 35 years ago, which for my musical taste is an excellent sign.

As I’ve done before when discussing specific albums, I’m going to write approximately one-two sentences about every song on the album, to give you a good overview of my thoughts:

  1. Behind Closed Doors – This song has a fantastic music video to accompany it, but besides that it has a bouncy, poppy melody and interesting lyrics that stick in your head. It’s a wonderful, upbeat opening track that sets the tone well for the rest of the largely upbeat album.
  2. Consequence – The guitar tone on this song shifts effortlessly between somber and bouncy, which helps make it one of my favorites on the album. It makes me feel nostalgic for something, though I’m not sure what, which is always a sign that a song has grabbed my emotions tightly with no intention of letting go.
  3. (I Need A Break From) Holidays – This sounds SO MUCH like the band Squeeze, especially during the verses, that it’s almost uncanny, but I see it as more of a loving tribute than a direct copy. Either way, it’s a really fun song with a tightly packed structure that is another of my favorites on the album and one that I already intend to listen to as much as I can.
  4. Grin And Bear It – I love the opening guitar riff for this song, which also sounds reminiscent of a Squeeze song, and the drums throughout drive the song nicely. This one stands out less than the other songs on the album, but despite that it’s a very likable song that’s worth many listens.
  5. Easy Riding – I absolutely love the chorus to this song, possibly because it is quite Beatle-esque and very infectious. The whole song is fun and a great feel-good song to pass the time during lazy summer days.
  6. Great Expectations – This was my introduction to Spitting Image, and is one of those rare songs that I fell in love with after hearing only 10 seconds of the song. This may be the best overall production of a song on the album. From the opening acoustic riff, to the very singable chorus, to the closing sax solo, it fits my definition of an “instant classic” as a song that should immediately be cherished.
  7. Garden of Eden – This is probably my least favorite song on the album, if only because it sounds like a dated tribute to psychedelic 60s rock with a bit of bluesy harmonica thrown in. It’s all right, but it’s a bit tedious and plodding, though it’s still cool to listen to.
  8. A Different Kind Of Tension – The opening here reminds me a lot of the song “Laughing Out Loud” by the Wallflowers, which I love. This song also features an inviting harmonica part and a driving bass line. This song also blends into the album a bit for it to be one of my favorites, but it is still a wonderful song.
  9. Get It Over Quickly – Another Strypes song that derives its strength from a driving guitar part that bleeds into a solo and then morphs back in to the opening riff, it features I believe one of the overall best guitar parts on the album.
  10. Turnin’ My Back – This song has possibly the most infectious guitar riff out of all the wonderful guitar riffs on this album, and it’s a really fun highlight of the second half of this album! There really is nothing like a great, memorable guitar riff that repeats just the right amount of times in a catchy song.
  11. Black Shades Over Red Eyes – The second half of this song is a beautifully melodic interplay of guitar parts that feed into a very Beatles-esque outro. The first half is also great, with a very catchy chorus, so overall it’s a very worthwhile jam.
  12. Mama Give Me Order – This song is a lovely acoustic departure from the album’s largely upbeat, electric sound. It’s very Lennon-esque, which for an guitar ballad, and coming from a Beatles fan, is a huge compliment.
  13. Oh Cruel World – You could practically sing the Who’s “Magic Bus” along to this song and you wouldn’t notice the difference, but aside from that this is a really fun song with a GREAT harmonica part that’s worth singing along to, with no shame.

To be honest, though, words really cannot describe just how happy this album makes me that it exists. It represents a type of quality song construction and production so rarely seen among younger mainstream artists today, in my opinion. Every one of these songs feels complete and packed with instrumental and vocal goodness, with no stone left unturned in terms of production possibilities. This album, along with the upcoming Foster the People album, will surely be played heavily in my summer musical rotation. It also gives me hope that the Strypes will have staying power in the music industry for years to come.

I am sincerely thankful that I stumbled upon the Strypes a few years ago while reading something about Elton John, as apparently he is among their celebrity fans. While their lyrics may be, to quote a review I read, “sophomoric” at times, this band shows so much untapped musical promise that they deserve a bigger stage. This summer alone, the Strypes are supporting Liam Gallagher and The Killers, among others, which is a huge chance for them to break into some new fans’ hearts. I am always happy to hear of their new concert announcements on Facebook, but unfortunately their popularity is still contained mostly in the UK and they seem to only tour there.

If anyone connected with the Strypes is reading this, please know that you have at least one big fan here in the U.S. who would absolutely love for you to do concerts stateside. Part of my intention with this post was honestly to give the Strypes some free publicity for their fantastic album. Given that about 1500 people read this blog every month, hopefully some of those visitors are also looking for some new music and check out the Strypes after reading this. I believe so much in the future success of this band, and Spitting Image further solidifies how much I appreciate that this type of music is still being produced. This may sound cliché, but the Strypes truly restore my faith in modern rock music. Rock may seem like an old man’s game now, but the Strypes show me that there are younger bands who are a “Spitting Image” of their musical predecessors, just waiting to make a splash. I’ve been listening to this album on repeat for days, and I can’t wait for more hours of repetition in the coming weeks. “Spitting Image” is what good music is all about.

‘The Getaway’: A Soaring Musical Getaway For RHCP

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Today I’m continuing my trend of occasionally diverging from Beatle-centric material to discuss the recent release of The Getaway, the 11th studio album by what is probably my second favorite band of all time, Red Hot Chili Peppers. This album has reaffirmed my belief that they are actually underrated by the general population for the incredible creativity and musicality of their catalog. They’re not just a funk-alternative-rock hybrid that sings “Under The Bridge” a lot, they are a genius musical conglomeration that has blessed the world with many, many awesome songs.

Speaking of awesome songs, this album is absolutely full of them! The Red Hot Chili Peppers strayed from their usual producer, Rick Rubin, on The Getaway, choosing to work instead with popular producer Danger Mouse. I’m not hugely up on music producers and their individual styles, but I do think that the change in producers is evident in this album’s more polished, modern sound. Some devoted fans of RHCP have complained about this, presumably longing for the days of yore when RHCP jumped all around the stage and wore nothing but socks during their concerts.

However, perhaps unsurprisingly, I am always a champion of a band’s musical evolution if I feel that they are still staying true to their musical roots. As good an album as Californication is, it really would be tedious if RHCP released six albums exactly like it. In my mind, there’s a distinct difference between a band evolving their sound and a band “selling out” with pop drivel. The Getaway certainly represents the former for RHCP; it features just enough experimentation that is well-balanced with more straightforward songs, and to me, it all sounds like the signature Chili Peppers that I love so dearly.

To give my more specific opinions on the album, I’m going to do a quick song-by-song rundown! Here we go!

  1. The Getaway– This is definitely one of the less rock-sounding songs on the album, but I love the scattered guitar work in the beginning, and it has a well-deserved place among the RHCP canon as a soothing, mellow track.
  2. Dark Necessities– I feel that the album version could benefit strongly from a more prominent guitar part. However, it is a fantastic song with an addicting base line, and I absolutely love the guitar solo break near the end!
  3. We Turn Red– This song didn’t stick out to me upon my initial listening of the album, but it certainly is funky and has interesting lyrics. I’ll have to listen to it some more to truly get into it, I think.
  4. The Longest Wave– THIS, my friends, is I believe the best song on the album! From the guitar introduction, to the soft verses, to the majestic chorus, I am obsessed with listening to this song on repeat. Ride the wave, because this song should become a RHCP classic if there’s any justice in this world.
  5. Goodbye Angels– This song really rocks, I love it!!! One of my favorites on the album as well, it builds beautifully and the guitar slashes throughout the song will get stuck in your head. Also that guitar break near the end is just brilliant.
  6. Sick Love– Important to note that this song features the one and only Sir Elton John! It’s interesting and honestly I think I’d prefer it as a classic Elton John song than a RHCP song, but I appreciate it nonetheless.
  7. Go Robot– Wow, there’s not one but TWO bass parts on this song! I think it sounds better as a live version, as the album version sounds a little overproduced even within the context of this album. Still, it’s extremely catchy and should be a single soon, I’d love to hear it on the radio!
  8. Feasting on the Flowers– I love the breezy guitar style throughout this song. I don’t have a ton to say about it honestly, but it’s not a bad song at all.
  9. Detroit– This song rocks pretty hard while still fitting in to the Chili Peppers’ more modern musical style. Again, the guitar here definitely drives the song and keeps it fun!
  10. This Ticonderoga– This awesome song weaves back and forth between two very musically distinct parts, though I do think the two sections are a little randomly put together. Still, the song’s internal diversity is a new, interesting musical step for the Chili Peppers.
  11. Encore– My other favorite song on the album!! It’s much more mellow alternative than the Chili Peppers commonly go, but the guitar is hypnotic and addicting. I actually like its verses better than the chorus, which is unusual for me, but the driving, sort of poppy beat here actually works really well as a constant thread throughout the song.
  12. The Hunter– This song is honestly a little slow for me and drags a bit to be a favorite of mine, but if you’re in the mood for a much slower Chili Peppers song, this one has a lovely airy guitar part.
  13. Dreams of a Samurai– This is probably the most overtly experimental song on The Getaway, but upon multiple listens, it’s quite a fascinating song and a grand, inspiring closing gesture on this amazing album.

One thing I love about this album as a whole is how it features their current guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer, much more prominently than did the previous Chili Peppers album, I’m With You. The aforementioned album was his first as an official member of the band, but his contribution to RHCP truly blossoms on The Getaway with the increased guitar presence and his lush backing vocals and harmonies. I’ve seen a lot of Josh-bashing on RHCP videos by overly nostalgic RHCP fans, but I think he’s a fantastic musician with a lot to offer for the Chili Peppers. I can’t wait to see what he’ll bring to the table for future RHCP albums!

So in conclusion, I love this album and I’ve been listening/harmonizing to it a lot this summer. With each listen, I continue to notice just how many diverse and interesting sounds there are on this album. For someone who enjoys unpacking individual elements of songs as they listen to them, this album is definitely for you. I’m so excited by its presence in my life, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that the Red Hot Chili Peppers tour the US soon to promote it! They are #1 on my current bucket list of concerts to see, and I have every faith that if/when I see them live, I will be transported on a musical getaway.

Foster the People’s “Supermodel” is Super-Awesome!

Supermodel

Supermodel

As I’ve said before, before I became a Beatles freak I was a big fan of Foster the People. Torches was the first album I bought on iTunes, and I’ve probably listened to it over a hundred times. But that album came out almost 3 years ago, and for a while I sort of forgot about Foster the People. However, the release of Supermodel has completely renewed my interest and reminded my why I loved their music so much in the first place!

The first thing to do when listening to this album is accept right away that this is NOT Torches, The Sequel. It’s much more of a concept album, and once you get comfortable with the overall vibe, the songs will definitely grow on you. I love that this album is very psychedelic and rock-oriented. There was only one really guitar-heavy song on Torches, but here both acoustic and electric guitar are present on basically every song. The songs here primarily deal with Mark Foster’s apparent detestation of the idea that one must sell oneself to the public in order to be happy. There are no stereotypical “love songs” on this album, which shows me that while Foster definitely writes songs from the heart, he doesn’t write songs from a one-sided perspective. Though the entire album is inspiring and worth listening to, I’d definitely recommend “Coming of Age,” “Nevermind,” and “Fire Escape” as exceptional stand-alone tracks.

However, I must admit that my favorite song by far, “Best Friend,” truly captures the magical energy of Torches better than any other on this album. In an interview, Foster said that he wrote it while trying to get out of writer’s block. To be stuck in a rut and then come up with this exceptional song? That’s talent right there! Whenever I listen to this amazing song, I feel like doing the head-bopping thing that Chris Kattan, Will Ferrell, and Jim Carrey do in the SNL sketch. The song is just that catchy. There’s also a part in the middle that sounds a lot like Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees. If there’s one song from this album that will be played at parties, it’s this one.

I’ve read many reviews of this album that have shocked me with their overt negativity. If anything, I thought this album would be lauded by critics, but it’s been almost the opposite. From what I’ve gathered, the #1 reason why critics don’t seem to love it is that it’s not as poppy, fun, and summery as Torches. People seem to have no patience with new albums these days. One critic’s review said flat-out, “The songs suck,” which is just incorrect.

I take issue with the idea that if music is not instantly accessible to the ears, it automatically sucks. If I want a poppy, fun, summery album, I’ll just listen to Torches. Supermodel is a completely different listening experience and should be appreciated in its own right. Just because the Beatles didn’t make an exact replica of Please Please Me the second time around doesn’t mean that With The Beatles wasn’t as good. For that matter, even Revolver, usually considered one of the Beatles’ best albums, didn’t strike me initially as being amazing. It took me more than a few listens to really get into it and figure out what the heck was going on half the time. I now love Revolver, but just because its brilliance didn’t strike me right away doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth another shot.

Anyway, if I have one major criticism of this album, it’s that I get the sense that Foster the People was trying really, really hard to make a fantastic, groundbreaking work of art. I definitely appreciate the artistry, but sometimes it feels a little forced. This is why I usually prefer more low-key albums like Rubber Soul and Madman Across The Water which don’t feel like they were supposed to be brilliant, as opposed to obvious masterpieces like Sgt. Pepper or Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I love when the brilliance of an album seems to happen by accident, which doesn’t quite happen for me with this album.

Despite that one minor quibble, I think this album is fantastic. It’s insightful, introspective, and dares listeners to question things that they may never bother to think about. At least Foster the People is trying to evolve their sound, be interesting, and keep their fans guessing, even if they tried a little too hard here. But I can always forgive overachievers, and they deserve to stick around for a few more albums and grace us with more awesome, interesting, thoughtful music. And murals.

An actual mural of their album cover on a building in Los Angeles.

An actual mural of their album cover on a building in Los Angeles.

Buy Supermodel on iTunes today! You won’t regret it! Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Elton John’s “The Diving Board” is (captain) Fantastic!!!

The Diving Board

The Diving Board

So I promised to review this album a couple of weeks ago, and since then I’ve listened to it a couple of times. I have to say that I don’t normally listen to Elton John while I’m studying because most of his songs are so catchy that they honestly distract me from doing my work, but this album is different. “The Diving Board” is a relaxing collection of 15 relatively mellow, wonderful, piano-centric songs, and I’m absolutely in love with it!

I decided before this album and “New” came out that I would only pay for one of them on iTunes, and so after buying “New” the day it came out, I had to wait a few weeks for this album to come in to the library. It was definitely worth the wait! I usually listen to new albums like “New” at night as a reward after I’ve finished my homework, but the week I got this album, I was very busy. So, I decided to go against my usual principles and listen to it while doing some work, and as soon as I heard the first notes of the first track, “Oceans Away,” I knew that this was the perfect context in which to hear this album for the first time!

I won’t do a track-by-track analysis of this album like I did for “New” because the songs here aren’t quite as diverse, so my descriptions wouldn’t vary much from song to song. However, the fact that many of the songs sound kind of similar definitely works in this album’s favor. It’s not an upbeat, poppy album at all, but the songs are so beautifully written and recorded that it is art all the same. I can’t believe that after all these years, Elton and Bernie Taupin are still writing together, and the lyrics on this album are stellar.

The standout song is probably the single, “Home Again,” that Elton has performed on just about every single talk show in existence at some point this fall. I also love the instrumental “Dream” tracks, and the afore-mentioned “Oceans Away” is stunningly beautiful. The only song that kind of drags on a bit for me is the title track “The Diving Board,” but it’s still a very pretty song. Overall, the entire album just works in a way that while not many of the songs stick out from each other, it’s not at all boring. On the contrary, it’s a fascinating and wonderful listen. This will probably become my go-to Elton John album to listen to while doing work, and I don’t think I’ll get sick of it any time soon.

I don’t know that I would recommend this as the first Elton John album for a new fan to listen to, but if you like Elton John already, do not pass this up! Here’s a video of Elton performing “Oceans Away” in Providence a few days ago. He sounds fantastic, and I am extremely excited about seeing him live in 16 days!!!!

Have a lovely week!