The Strypes : going back to the future? : photo John Robb

the Strypes

The Strypes
Manchester Academy
Feb 7th 2013
Live review

Whilst most of the music media are down in London for the Kraftwerk shows we find ourselves in another version of the past being transported the future. The Strypes with an average age of 15 are from Ireland and have, astonishingly grabbed the past of scratched 45s of blues and r’n’b and cranked it thrillingly into the middle of the moribund indie scene and into the future.

Like the Who, Yarbirds, Downliners Sect, Alexis Korner and the Stones in 1963 they have taken a past and created a future, like Dr. Feelgood in 1975 they have appeared from nowhere and ripped a hole in the fabric and reminded everyone that music doesn’t have to be anything apart from this perfect. The whole notion of music going forward has become so warped in recent years with the bands who get the kudos for changing the landscape copying media pet bands from the past that it makes a band like the Strypes make a mockery of the whole idea by recreating a moment to fiercely and perfectly that they sound like the NOW.

They dress in super sharp tailored mod finery and crank up the excitement with such perfect rendering of the old school r’n’b and blues that they shock you into the now.

Taking the past and making it the sound of right now is a neat trick and also one that is nearly imposable to pull off but the Strypes, with their intense energy and purity of vision have turned music upside down and have cut across the music scene with a sharpness that matches their suits. They have arrived without permission and confounded a cosy music scene consensus who are baffled by how they are here but the adrenalised blast is so perfect that and criticism matters little.

With an average age of 15 they have a musicianship that is way ahead of themselves with guitarist Josh McClory slashing away with great skill whilst throwing shapes across the stage with an air of the twtching manic genius of dear old Wilko Johnson and the rhythm section of, drummer Evan Walsh- who does that jazz style thing with his drum sticks and keeps it pounding and swinging and bassist Pete O’Hanlon, who plays with the amazing dexterity of a Norman Watt-Roy. It took Norm years to get this good and this 15 year old from Cavan in Ireland is already there with his fingers running up and down the neck with an outrageous dexterity.

Singer Ross Farrelly has a voice stained with the blues and an onstage coolness that, yet again, belies his age. The band sound so authentic and perfect that it makes a mockery of their ages but they bring that teenage rush with them, that excitement of being alive that it adds to their musical chops and experience and makes them, suddenly, the most vital band out there on the circuit.

They arrive into the middle of an overcrowded indie scene and instantly stand out with their energy and power as they rattle through a set that covers the kind of standards that Dr. Feelgood were playing when they appeared out of Canvey island in 1975 and like Wilko’s mob they make a fierce impression instantly by going back to the roots and reinventing the wheel yet again. It’s a moment like in those early sixties UK blues students like Keef or Townshend understanding the basic nature of what makes guitar music great and its cycical nature and its total brilliance when boiled down to to its rudimentary parts.

Every now and then rock n roll needs this reminder of what it’s really about- the thrill of the basic, the idea that it’s about adrenalin and an edginess and not to get too bloated. The Strypes have somehow defied everything that’s going on and taken it all back to where it comes from with a perfection that is stunning.

They ooze a confidence as they hit the stage running and their playing is exemplary- they even all swop instruments for the last few songs and sound equally adept on eachother’s instruments, throwing in a perctly played harmonica. They show no fear and a total self belief and have a couple of their own songs that are easily as good as any of their covers. Covers which include such standards as You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover- which they gut and reshape with a firebrand energy of their own

God knows how they grew up to become so steeped in an ancient culture like this and make it sound like the most vital music of 2013, god knows how they learned to play so well and sound like all the heroes of the form rolled into one, already. Their own songs are as good as their covers and they are poised, ready, to be the band that comes from nowhere to own the year.

The packed room was totally rocking. The Strypes commanded the audience that was a mixture of youth in neu-Mod finery and old vets from the pub rock circuit who know a good band when they see one.

They are on the fast track to being massive. This was more than a gig this was a moment…

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. How can you say what essentialy is a cover band who have a couple of their own songs are on the track to becomin’ massive?

    • Remember ‘The Strokes’? They came in on exactly the same ticket as The Strypes; one BIG difference. The Strokes came equipped with a full set of original crackers… I’m yet to hear one song from Strypes that gets anywhere near the heroes they’re aping (very well). Now what those boys really need is an Andrew Loog Oldham-figure to lock em in a room for the weekend and create the songs for a new generation to die for, and until that day arrives, The Strypes are nothing more than a novelty/tribute band who play well for their age (though there are ‘metalheads’ out there that would seriously blow them away on a technical level). The best weapon The Strypes have is the essential ingredient all bands need – a solid rhythm section.


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