In 2012, a group of boys from the Irish Midlands covered Slim Harpo’s Got Love If You Want It. Unleashed on YouTube, it went viral and shot to No.1 in the iTunes Blues Chart. Mainstream press coverage followed, with everyone from NME to The Telegraph hailing The Strypes as an antidote to One Direction.
The debut LP that followed, Snapshot, was a neat history lesson in early rock’n’roll for the Facebook generation, worshipping 60s Brit bluesers and 70s pub rock. Theirs was the language of The Yardbirds, Eddie & The Hot Rods, The Beatles, Chuck Berry… It was like the 2000s never happened. Or the 90s. Heck, even the 80s.
As an exercise in cutely packaged nostalgia, The Strypes were faultless. As an original band proposition… well, they didn’t really have a leg to stand on. As players they were impressively capable, but in terms of musical value it ultimately amounted to high-quality cabaret.
So Little Victories begs the question, can they cut it as an actual ‘new’ new band? For the most part, yes. There’s still ample room to grow, in terms of songwriting, but it at least this proves they’re up for the challenge. And they haven’t abandoned their retro affections; they’ve just streamlined them into younger-sounding, garage guitar tones and scuzzy rock’n’roll drive.
Cocksure opener Get Into It showcases R&B harmonies straight out of a Beatles-vs-Stones night, while Queen Of The Half Crown blends teenage vocals with louche blues swagger. But as the record progresses, it’s increasingly peppered with elements that cry, ‘Hey, look, we’re really young!’ Three Streets And A Village Green oozes Arctic Monkeys, while the noisy, scuzzy pace of Best Man nods to The Libertines.
Great songwriting might be a harder nut to crack, but they’ve comfortably upped their instrumental game. Drumming is slick and skilful. Guitar solos are more mature, with the pretty tune of (I Wanna Be Your) Everyday elevated by sophisticated, heartfelt fretwork. Lyrically they’re not exactly poets (girls, status updates, bromance, more girls…), though they’re not illiterate imbeciles either.
Little Victories takes a few listens to shine, and The Strypes are far from a finished work. But with an average age of 18, they’re ready to get stuck into the business of being a band – not a copycat gimmick.