Much of the attention afforded the Irish four-piece on their emergence circa 2012-13 was due to their being in their mid-teens, and the novelty appeal of hearing such old music being played by such young musicians – basically, the Maximum R&B of mid-60s Stones and Animals and the mid-70s pub rock of Dr Feelgood et al.
That novelty aspect can’t last, and indeed it’s fast becoming an irrelevancy: guitarist Josh McLorey and bassist Pete O’Hanlon are 19 now. To put that into perspective, by the same age, Paul Weller already had The Jam’s groundbreaking third album, All Mod Cons, in his sights.
Besides, if Little Victories is any measure, The Strypes can no longer boast their initial Unique Selling Point: 21st-century kids obsessed with primeval blues. Instead, they appear to have become fixated on mid-noughties indie, specifically the early output of Arctic Monkeys.
Singer Ross Farrelly’s voice appears to be modelled on Alex Turner’s snarl, only minus the sardonic inflection. Meanwhile, McLorey has evidently acquired whatever gadgets Turner used to elicit that twangy tone from his guitar on the first two Monkeys albums. Some of these tracks are as redolent of 2006 Sheffield as Snapshot was of the 1963 Crawdaddy.
They can, however, do other stuff – or rather, other people’s stuff. I Need To Be Your Only suggests a new fascination with 70s proto-metal, specifically Black Night by Deep Purple. On Queen Of The Half Crown, too, it’s as though the short-haired mods have become long-haired purveyors of 70s boogie – very 1975 after the debut’s 1965 worship.
It’s an authentic copy – a redaction, if not a reduction – of the original hard rock design. The opening motif to (I Wanna Be Your) Everyday recalls Stairway To Heaven, while the rest of the song is a by-numbers trudge through late-period Oasis. They pick up the pace for Best Man, and Cruel Brunette is punky power pop. The lyrics – all faithless women and blokey longing – are unreconstructed and artless.
As a compendium of rock styles, it’s hard to beat – maybe that’s what they mean by Little Victories. But it’s all quite characterless. “Everything is inspired by something that happened beforehand,” they argue. “But at the same time everything’s modern, ’cause if it’s played by people who live today, then surely it’s modern?” Compelling reasoning, and true – excitement is where you find it. But it’s only when they find a style of their own that The Strypes will truly matter./o:p
FINAL VERDICT: 4⁄10