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.

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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!

Maybe I’m amazed by Paul McCartney’s “New”!

New

New

Paul McCartney has been seemingly everywhere recently. He showed up at a Queens high school not 20 miles from where I live and gave a surprise concert to the students there! He gave a surprise show in Times Square last week! He gave a surprise show in Covent Garden, London, this week! He’s performed on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, and basically everywhere else. And all of this is to promote his new album, “New”! I’ve been looking forward to this album for weeks, and it does not disappoint in the slightest!!!

I downloaded and listened to this album the day it came out, and I was absolutely blown away. It is modern, slick, and different than anything from Paul I’ve ever heard. And yet, it still sounds like signature Paul to me! The songs are catchy and amazingly produced, with an almost spacey vibe. I won’t dissect each song for hours, because that would get a bit tedious, but I will give a one-sentence sum up of all the songs.

1. Save Us- An awesome uptempo rocker kind of like “Only Mama Knows” from his last solo album, Memory Almost Full, although I think this is better.

2. Alligator- I think this is the most musically interesting song on the album, and I was transfixed the first time I listened to it by all the cool sounds throughout.

3. On My Way To Work- The lyrics remind me of “A Day In The Life” a bit, and while the song itself doesn’t, it is a fantastic song nonetheless.

4. Queenie Eye- One of my favorites on the album, because it’s so catchy, interesting, and just all around AMAZING!!!

5. Early Days- An acoustic, nostalgic, beautiful song that is basically classic Paul.

6. New- I’ve already shared my thoughts on this song, but it’s very Beatley and I LOVE IT!!!!!!

7. Appreciate- A little too electronic to be a favorite of mine, but it is a very cool song that sounds a lot like something Dhani Harrison and thenewno2 would do.

8. Everybody Out There- Extremely catchy with a great opening riff that will surely become a live favorite in the near future!

9. Hosanna- A very different sound than Paul usually does, but it’s fascinating to listen to, and almost sounds like “Tomorrow Never Knows” at the end.

10. I Can Bet- This song is really fun and upbeat, which is what Paul does best!

11. Looking At Her- Another amazing song that has interesting lyrics and is just fascinatingly cool.

12. Road- WOW!!!!!! That is all.

13. Turned Out- A fantastic little ditty that had me singing along before I even knew the words.

14. Get Me Out Of Here- The first half is very Wings-esque, and the second half is an intimate, beautiful piano ballad in which Paul amazes me with his talent, yet again.

So, if I had to rate this album, I would give it a 10 out of 10, 5 stars, and the absolute highest praise I could possibly bestow upon it!!! I think this is better overall than his last solo album, Memory Almost Full, and I think it might actually be better than what I’ve decided is my favorite Paul solo album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s the best solo Paul album ever, but it’s definitely up there with the best of his Wings and solo career, in my opinion.
What I think makes it so great is that it doesn’t sound like something from the 60s. It’s very modern, but in a good way because it’s so amazingly produced and sounds so great. The songs are all very diverse, yet they all fit together well, and that makes the album interesting and fun to listen to. And best of all, I don’t think you have to be a Paul fan, or even a Beatle fan, to like this album. I believe that anyone who says they like modern pop, which is a very large amount of people, would enjoy listening to this album! It’s very current, very Paul, and absolutely brilliant!!!! I’m listening to it again right now, and I know this will become a regular part of my musical rotation.

I haven’t listened to Elton John’s new album in its entirety yet, and I may do a review for that in the near future. But for now, although I haven’t bought or listened to that many albums released this year, I say that this should definitely be in the running for “Album Of The Year” at the Grammys. If you haven’t bought it, no matter who you are, I highly recommend it and suggest that you buy it! You will be amazed!!!

In honor of Halloween in 10 days, here's Paul McCatney.

In honor of Halloween in 10 days, here’s Paul McCatney.