When a band lists their influences as “Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death” on their Facebook page, you know you are in for one hell of an auditory ride. Sean Diamond takes a nervous listen.
Back in the merry month of May, I attended a gig at The Continental pub, Preston, an all-day event which featured many great bands and artists and was headlined by The Membranes and The Three Johns. The first band on were called The Strange, a young four piece from Burnley who tore the stage a new hole with their fiery, manic and often bloody scary indie-garage-blues death thrash of a set. It left me stunned, shaken and more than a little stirred, and wondering just how such smartly dressed, youthful looking men could come up with such an unholy, hellbound racket as the one I had just heard! Still not entirely sure, but I felt an uncontrollable twinge of excitement last week upon hearing of the release of their debut album. History tells us that the studio is not always kind to great live acts, so a little caution is often necessary in situations like this. Or perhaps that’s just me….
The album cover kinda lets you know what you’re in for. A lurid, blood red illustration of what appears to be a mosquito, or maybe a Daddy Long Legs. Opening track ‘Little Girl Games’ sets the pace – an infectious guitar riff from Matt Seel which sounds like the theme tune from some long lost early sixties Cold War themed sci-fi flick, and a genuinely chilling moment towards the end when frontman Sam Hartley lets out a truly bloodcurdling (and totally unexpected) primal scream, a sound which would make Dr Arthur Janov himself jump out of his chair in fright.
Single ‘Flies’ is similarly unnerving; a menacing punk stomper of a track about a boy who “never could say no”, and the resultant grief this brings him. Or something. The creepy chorus of “stick to the floor, like a fly in the window” makes me think that some questions are probably left unanswered, for one’s own safety. Scary shit.
Creepy crawly themes continue in the wonderfully titled ‘I Sea Spyders’ – a gloomy ode to the miscreants and wastrels who pepper the dark streets of our great country at night. Tyler Hanley’s pulverizing drums and Elias Hartley’s bruising bass give the track a distinct “concrete” feeling, an aural approximation of the feeling you often get when walking down a red brick Victorian terraced road late at night.
‘Blood For Breakfast’, on the other hand, is a deranged, astonishingly profane tale of “a bonny-faced mate” with “leeches for blood”, with killer lines such as “You can keep your God, God can’t give me what she’s got”. The most startling moment comes at the end when, seemingly incensed by the anonymous friend of Jesus, the song’s narrator let’s rip with “YOU CAN FUCK YOUR GOD”, before describing himself as “The crucial c-t in a ruthless cage.”
More reflective, slower burning numbers such as ‘Bleed’ and ‘Catch A Tale’ still have an unmistakable undercurrent of menace bubbling through them, like the calm and silent terror before a riot, a sense that something may kick off at any given moment which often occurs in real life; that horrible, instinctive knowing feeling before such an occurrence.
‘Shake It Loose’ is a 12 bar blues zig-zag wander into the dark heart of the soul, ‘Next Hit’ a Gang Of Four/Au Pairs flavoured number with references to Theodore Roosevelt, government scheming and paranoia, perfectly exemplified in the line “I can’t seem to think, so I might as well spit.”
Clocking in at eight tracks, 22 minutes, ‘Sleep’ is a cold sweat inducing, feverish nightmare of a disc; a damaged, disgusted punk rock paean to the desolate 21st century cultural wasteland of Great Britain and it’s surrounding areas. Perhaps more importantly, it rocks like a bastard!
Producer Matt Heap has done a superb job in bringing these songs to life on record, capturing the essence of their live persona with a polished yet rough around the edges mix which kicks out from the speakers like Buckaroo on steroids. Playing this album is akin to unleashing a plague of locusts upon the land, a Biblical storm of truly epic proportions. As proven by their logo, The Strange are aiming for the jugular. The faint hearted need not apply.
Find The Strange on FacebookÂ and Soundcloud. And, you can find them on their label website as well where you can, of course, buy a copy of ‘Sleep’ for yourself (or a loved one this holiday season! Perfect for Grandma!)
Words by Sean Diamond. More writing by Sean on Louder Than War can be found here.Â