"Epidemically catchy, fearlessly camp and glam, air-punch anthemic and just the right level of daft": The Struts' Pretty Vicious

Derby’s ambitious classic rock crew The Struts aim for the stars with album number four Pretty Vicious

The Struts: Pretty Vicious cover art
(Image: © Big Machine Label Group)

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If the company you keep was a measure of success, then The Struts would be on an unstoppable trajectory to the stars. Dave Grohl is an admirer and very vocal supporter. They’ve collaborated with everyone from Kesha to Tom Morello, Def Leppard to Paris Jackson – a cross generational, cross-genre crew of disparate characters if ever there was one. They’ve supported the Rolling Stones and Guns N’ Roses, and frontman Luke Spiller sang with Queen at the Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts in LA and London. 

Yet despite all this and also a reputation for spectacular live shows, their profile outside the rock-scene bubble has never quite matched their promise. Pretty Vicious could be the album to change all that. Opener Too Good At Raising Hell straddles the line between pop and rock, cherry-picking the best things about both. Epidemically catchy, fearlessly camp and glam, air-punch anthemic and just the right level of daft, it would sit as comfortably alongside the 80s Sunset Strip big players as it would alongside Robbie Williams (another past collaborator) at the height of his Vegas-shagging fame.

Brash, then, but that’s not to say it entirely lacks nuance. The title track is clearly inspired by Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, giving it a shot of adrenaline but retaining its sense of romantic fear and betrayal, all set to a driving classic-rock beat that harks back to the days when MTV played actual music videos. 

Bad Decisions is a moment of genuine, heartfelt, emotional remorse from the sharp end of the rock’n’roll lifestyle. Rockstar, meanwhile, pays gonzo tribute to Queen in Spiller’s yelps and a pile of layered vocal harmonies. None of it attempts to reinvent the wheel, rather it’s a glitter-dusted love letter to the greats that came before them.

The Struts are unapologetic in striving for the big time. Pretty Vicious is a pouting, theatrical stab at fame and all the fabulous opportunities it affords. It’s music harks back to the days when rock’n’roll ruled the world and made its protagonists gods, at least for the hour they spent on stage. And in a world of beige, it’s a splash of kaleidoscopic colour, with absolutely zero allowances for the notion of being cool. This is showing off on a grand scale, and why not? 

Whether the world at large falls for their charms remains to be seen – they certainly stick out like a peacock in a flock of chickens on today’s radio landscape – but there’s no doubt that they’ve given it their all this time around.

Emma has been writing about music for 25 years, and is a regular contributor to Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog and Louder. During that time her words have also appeared in publications including Kerrang!, Melody Maker, Select, The Blues Magazine and many more. She is also a professional pedant and grammar nerd and has worked as a copy editor on everything from film titles through to high-end property magazines. In her spare time, when not at gigs, you’ll find her at her local stables hanging out with a bunch of extremely characterful horses.