Album: The Strypes, Snapshot (Virgin EMI)

A scintillating shot of roughneck rhythm and blues

Andy Gill
Saturday 07 September 2013 13:08

The unfeasible precocity of The Strypes illustrates the time-telescoping effect of YouTube culture. With virtually the entire history of music just a mouse-click away, today’s young rock obsessive requires only the desire to hear something brilliant, and the taste to recognise brilliance when they hear it. As Elton John noted of The Strypes, these callow Irish lads have amassed as much knowledge about rhythm and blues at 16 as he has in six decades.

Of course, it takes something else to translate that love of blues into music as compelling as Snapshot, an album of roughneck guitar R’n’B that recalls by turns the Eel Pie Island sound of the early Stones and Yardbirds and, in the bullish energy and peremptory tone of songs like “Mystery Man”, the proto-punk drive of Dr Feelgood.

That track opens the album with a snarling howl of feedback which tips over into a pell-mell rush of riffing guitar and wailing blues-harp, and things never let up from that point. “Blue Collar Jane”, the single about a girl who “never wears her hair up ’cos she’s always dressing down”, continues in similarly taut, edgy vein, its impact brutal. (The album is produced by Chris Thomas, who rendered the Sex Pistols with such surly power, so the sound of Snapshot comes at you like a tiger.)

It’s one dizzying burst of energy after another: “She’s So Fine” bursts in like a car careering out of control, while the hurtling momentum of their cover of Bo Diddley’s “You Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover” is punctuated with tiny little guitar fills that are like sonic exclamation marks, just one element of guitarist Josh McClorey’s arsenal of techniques. On “I Can Tell”, he emulates the choppy, bitten-off rhythm style of the Feelgoods’ Wilko Johnson, while the calm fluidity of his work on the slower blues “Angel Eyes” brings to mind Peter Green.

But it’s a band performance, first and foremost, whether they’re raving through Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” at a furious pace, or bewailing their shyness in “Hometown Girls”: a sound which, to borrow Ross Farrelly’s apt self-description, “reeks of sweat and teenage innocence”.

Download: Mystery Man; Blue Collar Jane; She’s So Fine; Rollin’ and Tumblin’

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