Youngsters seem to be everywhere – taking old influences and putting their own spin on things. And we’re not talking early twenty-somethings, but kids in their mid-to-late teens.
First there was Jake Bugg, who burst onto a UK scene starved of songwriters with a rough around the edges, working class appeal. More recently, industry heavyweight Alan McGee has thrown his weight – and a new label – behind a 15-year-old Doncaster songwriter called John Lennon McCullagh (yes, that’s his real name), whose howled folk points to a big future.
And then there’s The Strypes, four lads out of Cavan, Ireland who play 60s R&B and are, as you might have guessed, still in their teens.
From afar, (and this is not a criticism) these four seem like they are halfway between Bugg and One Direction. They’re young, clearly talented, but now possess a polished, glossy major-label sheen.
Still, it’s the second of these points which is most pertinent here. The Strypes possess an innate understanding of the modern sounding, but backwards-looking, pop songs. Songs that offer a cheeky nod to the past – blues, garage rock, R&B – but also come across as somehow contemporary.
They are fashioned in very much the same way as some of the great guitar pop groups of the past 50-odd years. A ‘The’ name, boyish haircuts, and a ‘gang mentality’ image that has served all the greats well – from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to The Smiths and Oasis.
What they also have are good songs. And though the tracks on ‘Snapshot‘ are all pretty samey – snotty, adolescent guitar pop – so were the tunes on ‘Is This It?‘ and ‘Never Mind The Bollocks…‘.
That’s not to make a direct comparison based on quality, nor to suggest that ‘Snapshot’ will necessarily stand the test of time in the same way, but simply to point out that this is how debut albums have always been.
And it’s also worth noting that the record was produced by Chris Thomas, who worked with the Sex Pistols. Thomas improves The Strypes’ songs, adding attack and verve. Tracks such as opener ‘Mystery Man’ and the hooktastic ‘Blue Collar Jane’ are punchy, while the Nick Lowe cover ‘Heart of the City’ shows they’ve got great taste too.
Most-recent single ‘What A Shame’ is the most ‘crossover’ track here, with its panned, trebly guitar swipes and restless bassline recalling Arctic Monkeys’ material.
If The Strypes have one key aim on ‘Snapshot’, it’s to make you dance. Each track seems to move at a million miles an hour, with the tight arrangements and structures only adding to that feeling. Moreover, this is an album of hooky choruses and shouty verse lines – the sort of lines that will inhabit your head for days on end.
It would be easy to criticise The Strypes for being unoriginal, as most of the negative reviews so far have. But that would be missing the point by quite a margin. These songs – 12 of them – are a celebration of a particular genre of music, and though there’s lots of appropriation going on, it’s done with reverence and dewy-eyed enthusiasm.
It’s easy to see why they boast an impressive list of fans already: from Noel Gallagher, Roger Daltrey and Paul Weller, to Elton John and Dave Grohl.
In fact, what this might tell you, if you read between the lines, is that the names above – the old guard, if you like – are obviously heartened to see a few youngsters keen to take up the rock ‘n’ roll torch.
And if you identify with that same sentiment, you’re bound to love The Strypes.