Inside a small, sweaty club, four young men are tearing through songs by the likes of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. They wear tight suits and ties, have mops of hair and the vocalist clutches a harmonica to blow up a storm of ferocious rhythm and blues. It is, perhaps, not unlike witnessing the young Rolling Stones at the Marquee in 1962. However, the band are the Strypes, from Cavan in Ireland; their average age is 16.
Watching The Strypes perform, you’re struck by a worrying thought that these four Irish teens have been body-snatched by a band of hoary old pub rockers. On record, happily, they sound their age. Debut album ‘Snapshot’ sees the band stomp through a dozen tunes in 35 minutes, guitars squealing impressively and harmonicas wailing throughout. It’s bread and butter blues-rock, packed with lyrical anachronisms and clichés, but it’s done well and – importantly – is not as shamelessly retro as those covers-packed live shows. The downside of this is, occasionally, they sound a little bit like McFly. The upside is that The Strypes have begun to carve out a personality of their own.
Some of the Strypes’ covers – among them Diddley’s I Can Tell and Leiber/Stoller’s I’m a Hog for You Baby – were given a similar electric shock by Dr Feelgood in the 1970s; and indeed the wild-eyed, instrument-shaking guitarist Josh McClorey has more than a hint of the Canvey islanders’ Wilko Johnson.
Their original songs hold their own. Blue Collar Jane and I’m No Good are raw, three-minute, lip-curling explosions of adolescent concerns delivered with blistering musicianship. As the gig progresses, the quartet play their instruments increasingly as if they’re taming wild animals, their hair becomes more unruly, their screaming racket more thrillingly demented. There’s a wonderful moment when McClorey holds a note, stares at the crowd as if in utter shock, returns to the note and then looks up again as he crashes into a riff.
They could well become absolutely huge, and once the cancer-stricken Johnson plays his final dates this spring, he can rest knowing that a younger generation is taking up the cause.