In the realm of classic rock, authenticity is everything. There’s a very thin line between homage and pastiche, particularly when it comes to pomp-rock and glam-metal, to which our cultural radars are laser-tuned. The likes of Queen, Def Leppard and AC/DC might be struck through with a rich seam of humour, but when emulating them any hint of tongue approaching cheek sets off The Darkness alarms.
This genre is appreciative of tribute, but wary of mockery. Derby’s The Struts judged the balance sufficiently well to become a minor US rock sensation with their first two albums, Everybody Wants and Young & Dangerous.
Their hints of a modern synthetic tone and contemporary beat are in keeping with the commercial gloss of much of 80s hair-rock, but their 2018 remix of Body Talks featuring Kesha revealed a more cynical crossover eye.
Our advice is to forget the title track exists, start the album on the second track, the glam AC/DC All Dressed Up (With Nowhere To Go), and enjoy a record of instant, solid-gold riff-rock classics.
Air-punchers abound, steeped in roadhouse gristle, steamy tales of women sexed and lost, and the sort of multi-tracked chant choruses that saw a million tiger skin legging-wearing heroes narrowly escape death by pyro in 1986. Leppard’s Joe Elliott and Phil Collen even show up in person on stomp rocker I Hate How Much I Want You. Authenticity restored.
The Struts have clearly mastered the classic rock arts, be they glam-metal (You Love Me) or roots Americana (the sublime, grainy Burn It Down, all lolloping guitars and bar-room piano).
Luke Spiller has a massive monster truck voice, and guitarist Adam Slack can make his solos sound like construction workers doing Cirque de Soleil stunts from their cranes.
Where they transcend homage, though, is in welcoming the influence of their guest stars: The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr. helps turn Another Hit Of Showmanship, a smart rewrite of the fame-as-drug metaphor, into a new-wave surf smash, while Tom Morello steals the show with a voodoo-rock turn on Wild Child, dripping seditious sleaze. And that’s how you silence the Darkness alarms.