This article was originally published in The Sting on October 16, 2020.
Back in August, I had a chance to go to an in-person, drive-in concert up in Philadelphia, which I wrote about in a previous Friday Groove article. British rock outfit The Struts were the main act.
In addition to the usual songs, the band played new material they had written while quarantined together during the first couple months of the pandemic. Frontman Luke Spiller told the audience that “something big would be coming soon. A few weeks later, the band announced their third studio album, Strange Days. Within the next couple weeks they released the first singles from the record, “Another Hit of Showmanship” and “Strange Days.”
The LP finally dropped today. In a year that hasn’t had me very excited about new music, The Struts have been a big part of an autumn that is finally providing some reprieve to the lack of good, new music.
Recorded over the course of 10 days in quarantine, Strange Days manages to capture a new sense of intimacy not seen in their previous work. The opening (title) track “Strange Days”, which features Robbie Williams, evokes the feelings most of us have felt while being stuck in lockdown. The words “science fiction I believe, has become reality” hits way too close to home, but that isn’t a bad thing. Every songwriter strives to tap into such delicate emotions, many to no avail.
But even with undertones of the pandemic and lockdowns, The Struts still manage to rock. Tracks like “All Dressed Up” and “Cool” emit the classic Struts sound that fans have grown to love. Robust guitars paired with powerful vocals still make this record feel familiar. On this effort, The Struts enlisted other musicians to make this record really pop.
“I Hate How Much I Want You” features Def Leppard’s Phil Collen and Joe Elliot. I’m not much of a Def Leppard fan, but their presence on the track definitely enhances it. Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello appears on “Wild Child,” playing guitar the way only he can. Morello has collaborated with several artists over the years, including Bruce Springsteen. This collaboration feels right. The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr. appears on the single “Another Hit of Showmanship.”
Perhaps my favorite track is “Am I Talking to the Champagne,” the final track on the album. “Champagne” goes for a different sound, one that’s a little bluesier, bordering on a sound similar to the Rolling Stones’ Some Girls record. The bass line on this track really stands out, which isn’t necessarily the case on many of their other songs.
Overall this record was very enjoyable. Recording one song in quarantine is difficult enough, save for an entire album. Take it from someone who knows. I’m currently in the process of recording my second album in the midst of this pandemic, granted I probably have much less equipment at my disposal than these guys.
Whatever The Struts had originally planned for a third album, I’m sure it was thwarted in part by the current state of affairs. But adapting to the situation and churning out a record as good as this one is certainly commendable, and I’m excited to see what they do next.
Tony Sheaffer is managing editor for The Sting and writes Friday Groove, a weekly music column.