Album Review: The Struts – “Young And Dangerous”
The story of the Struts’ rise to fame is definitely a bit of an odd one. In the space of three or four years, they’ve gone from being a hard-gigging group of Queen-influenced young rockers from Derby to globe-trotting Little Mix-dating superstars supporting the Stones and the Foo Fighters in the States, as well as being packed off on their own American tours for several months at a time, and a profile back on this side of the pond growing nicely as well.
With album number two, the band find themselves at a crossroads. Their debut, 2014’s “Everybody Wants” was a fairly promising first effort with enough soaring tunes and charisma to just about allow you to overlook the odd moment where they sounded less Freddie Mercury and more Robbie Williams. Having reviewed the re-released version for this very webzine a couple of years back, my view was that if the band could wrest a bit of control back from their label, cut back the over-production and strip back the sound and let their inner rock animal kick loose, then they really could genuinely be the next big thing that some of the rock press were (and still are) hyping them as.
Potential realised this time out then? It gives me no pleasure to report this but sadly, not quite. Unfortunately “Young And Dangerous” falls into pretty much exactly the same traps that its predecessor did, namely that it feels like the work of a band who could potentially kick loose to devastating effect (and if you’ve seen them in concert, then you’ll know that they most definitely can), but have allowed their album to be over-produced to within an inch of its life and seen quite a bit of their edge blunted unfortunately.
It gets off to a decent enough start – recent singles “Body Talks” and “Primadonna Like Me” are good fun romps which have enough power to punch through the candyfloss synths trying to drown them in gloop and “In Love With A Camera” is a solid effort. Even with these though, you kind of get the feeling that beneath the come-ons, preening and cheeky pomposity, the whole thing kind of feels a bit hollow underneath, as if the band are kind of playing up for the sake of it rather than putting their soul into the music.
This becomes worryingly pronounced on “Bulletproof Baby” and “Who Am I?”, which see the Struts drifting further and further away from their rock band origins and sailing dangerously close to the waters of smug AOR tossers Maroon 5, with this “let’s try and peddle ’em to mallrat America” approach (almost certainly I suspect engineered by their management and label bosses) reaching its nadir on the absolutely dreadful pop-rap pap of “I Do It So Well”. Uurgh.
And yet, and yet…it’s still frustratingly difficult to write the Struts off as they occasionally show irritating glimpses of what they could be capable of if only they’d take that bloody synthesiser, shove it up the A&R man’s arse and kick out the jams the way they should be doing. “Fire” is a good solid rocker, similar to first album standout “Young Stars”, and despite the hackneyed title, “Tatler Magazine” is a good slice of Freddie style nudge-wink pop (think “Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy” given a 21st century makeover). It’s on the closing ballad “Ashes” where they really shine though with some soul finally punching through the plastic grin to create a superb epic topped off with a great vocal performance from Luke Spiller. Hopefully it’s the song that points the way forward to album number three for these guys.
"Young And Dangerous" is more frustrating than a spoon with a hole in it. You get the impression that lurking somewhere within the Struts is a preening rock beast just waiting to roar, however, this album sees the problems that plagued the Struts' debut become even more pronounced. Hopefully somewhere between now and their third effort they finally see sense, sack whichever marketing scumbag has neutered them like this, and let that animal loose.