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‘Strange Days?’ Strange album

The Struts’ third studio album addresses the global pandemic in series of experiments in rock music

<p>The Struts' new album, "Strange Days," will reach their full potential when live music can safely return to venues around the world.&nbsp;</p>

The Struts' new album, "Strange Days," will reach their full potential when live music can safely return to venues around the world. 

The Struts’ first two albums are the kind of glam rock masterpieces that make it feel like the British Invasion of the ‘60s and ‘70s never really ended. Based out of Derby, England, the Struts drew the praise of rock ‘n’ roll fans with energetic hits reminiscent of Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Their third studio album, aptly named “Strange Days,” is a divergence from their high-octane classics. Despite introducing new ideas to their traditional rock sound — from adding a piano to collaborating with other rock stars — the album feels more heavily inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic than anything else.

The album opens with its namesake, “Strange Days.” Cowritten and recorded with British rocker Robbie Williams, the song is a clear homage to the unprecedented and unpleasant spring of 2020. Subtlety has never been a songwriting strength of Struts frontman Luke Spiller, who sings what all of his fans are thinking, “We don’t know it’s unclear / Where we’ll be this time next year.” This is especially true for The Struts, who have spent the better part of the last eight years touring. 

The slowed down, conversational tone of “Strange Days” sets the stage beautifully for the second song, “All Dressed Up (With Nowhere To Go).” A hard rock approach to country star Reba McIntire’s song of the same name, it uses the high-energy vocals and powerful electric guitar that made The Struts famous to elicit nostalgia for the weekend nights on the dance floor that haven’t been the same since March. “All Dressed Up (With Nowhere To Go)” is for everyone who has gone out dressed to the nines for a socially distanced dance party, but it’s also for Spiller himself. Spiller’s live presence has meant everything to The Struts, from his iconic swagger giving them their name, to his raucous stage presence allowing them to open stadium shows for the Foo Fighters and the Rolling Stones with only a single album out. Spiller takes particular pride in his appearance and goes through four to five costume changes every show, no matter the venue size. He has been dressed by designers who have outfitted everyone from Freddie Mercury to Mick Jagger. Losing live shows means more to Spiller and The Struts than almost anyone, and “All Dressed Up (With Nowhere To Go)” channels that frustration into one of the best songs on the album.

After the first two songs, The Struts start taking creative liberties that can only have been the result of quarantine projects. Some of them are incredible. “Burn it Down” centers around a piano part reminiscent of Elton John and gives guitarist Adam Slack a well-needed break from carrying the melody. The basslines in “Wild Child” and “Can’t Sleep” remind listeners just how talented bassist Jed Elliott is. The album features several other prominent rockers in songs with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Phil Collen and Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, and Albert Hammond Jr. of the Strokes. It is rare to see so many features on a rock album, but their addition led to three incredible rock songs in “Wild Child,” “I Hate How Much I Want You” and “Another Hit of Showmanship.”

However, all of The Struts’ creative energy brought forward by the pandemic also produced several flops. “I Hate How Much I Want You” opens an otherwise incredible classic rock song with a recorded phone call between Spiller and Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott that wouldn’t feel out of place in an Austin Powers movie. The final song on the album “Am I Talking To The Champagne (Or Talking To You)” comes off as cringeworthy, with Spiller whispering lyrics about heartbreak that fail to rhyme, let alone elicit any emotional response. “Burn It Down” tastelessly tries to blend the hard-partying energy of Spiller with the current state of the pandemic in the lines, “I’m not even six feet / but I’m the man you won’t forget / I’m the one and only virus / that you’ll love when you get.” 

“Strange Days” shows a new side of The Struts. While staying true to their glam rock roots, they used the pandemic to experiment with a genre that has remained largely stagnant since the hair bands of the ‘80s. Some tracks were fantastic and some should never have left the studio, but the biggest drawback of the album isn’t any of their songs — it’s the fact that these songs likely won’t reach their full potential until a live performance is safe to attend. The album serves as a reminder that live music will come back and with it a wave of performances that everyone should be excited about. These really are strange days.


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