21t June 2013
Blue Collar Rhythm, White Boy Blues. Louder Than War’s Martin Copland-Gray checks out new boys The Strypes & makes some lofty comparisons.
The venue is packed, hot, people dancing, heads bobbing to the raw rhythm & blues coming from the young band up on the stage. The opening wails of Ooh Pooh Pah Doo fill the air and suddenly I’m transported back along the A40 bypassing Shepherd’s Bush & Wembley to The Railway Hotel in Wealdstone. It’s Summer 1964 and another young band are launching into the same number originally recorded by New Orleans legend Jessie Hill sometime during 1960. Back then they were known as The High Numbers, a Mod band formed in the image of Pete Meaden. Right after that gig they signed up with Kit Lambert & Chris Stamp, became The Who and the rest as they say is history.
Back in North London The Strypes are putting their own stamp on this classic tune. It’s just one of several R&B favourites that will receive an airing tonight. We’re also treated to Bo Diddley’s You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover, Heart of the City by Nick Lowe & the R&B standard from 1946 Route 66. Sure there are Mods here but also guys & gals in their 30’s & 40’s and popsters in their 20’s who are enjoying that wonderful experience of discovering a young band for the very first time. All are united in the love this band shows quite clearly for proper, honest, hard working Rhythm & Blues.
To be steeped in this kind of knowledge in middle age would be impressive but at 16? Well, that’s nigh on incredible. They’ve been compared to The Beatles which the band have rightly distanced themselves from. Anyway, The Beatles were influenced by the rock ‘n’ roll sounds of Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins & Elvis. I’d place them a lot closer to The Rolling Stones or The Yardbirds. Both of those bands were heavily influenced by the Blues and shamelessly covered tracks by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James.
What sets apart The Strypes from most bands today is that rich musical heritage that they have immersed themselves in. I’d like to think they sat around in the front room of a house in their native Cavan with a box of Blues vinyl, a Dansette record player, a guitar and a harmonica. For hours behind a locked door they listened, played along and then when they finally left that room with smiles on their faces they took those songs, cranked up the pace to a punkish level and made them their own.
In North London tonight all that hard work paid off. From the gutsy opener of Mystery Man, right through What the People don’t See, recent singles Blue Collar Jane and Hometown Girls finishing up with a rollercoaster version of Route 66 they barely stop for breath. The energy is relentless, the guitar work from Josh McClorey carries echoes of a young Jimmy Page, the rhythm section of Evan Walsh & Pete O’Hanlon play with an intensity that belies their years. There’s not just R&B there but soul too and in lead singer Ross Farrelly the future is definitely a bright one so keep those shades on young man.
It may be nearly 40 years since four young men coined the phrase Maximum R&B but it has been redefined for a new generation. So button up your bum freezer jackets and slip into your best Bass Weejun’s, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
All words by Martin Copland-Gray. You can read more from Martin on LTW in his author’s archive.