The Struts’ new record ‘Young & Dangerous’ runs hot and cold. It contains potentially some of their most enjoyable tracks to date, but that is countered by some questionable choices in direction that leave the album feeling about halfway there.
The band have broken the mould of bands of their generation since they started back in 2009, and have the strange but impressive accolade of having broken America before they really broke anywhere else.
Their glam rock revival sound, with twinges of influence from more recent musical history, has propelled them to high acclaim. Next they had to conquer the second album, and on balance it’s hard to say whether they’ve done enough.
Let’s stress the positives first; bloody hell there’s some cracking songs on this album. It starts with a bang with lead single ‘Body Talks’, which has attitude in spades and is effortlessly catchy. I should point out that this is the album version we’re talking about, not the version with a baffling appearance from a frankly bored-sounding Ke$ha.
Following on is ‘Primadonna Like Me’, which cranks up the bravado even further. This is the magic of this band, because songs like this will have both you and your dad marching around the dancefloor like peacocks. The Struts- Closing the Generational Divide™.
Arguably the only example of The Struts trying something different and it actually working brings the standout track on the record, ‘Who Am I?’. The irresistible disco-esque grooveand Luke Spiller’s strongest lyrical performance combine for an absolute banger. Spiller’s vocals are top-quality as well, but that’s the same for every song; the man has a gift.
Regrettably though, on the subject of trying something different we have to come to all the stuff that doesn’t work. The Struts are over-the-top, that’s their whole thing, but sometimes it makes it difficult to tell when they’re taking the piss and when they’re being serious.
After a couple of listens you figure out which tracks fall into which category, so you can have a laugh about the intended ridiculousness of ‘Tatler Magazine’ and ‘I Do It So Well’, but then be completely bemused by ‘Bulletproof Baby’ and ‘Freak Like You’. It wouldn’t be surprising to find out those songs were heavier numbers written for Jessie J or Katy Perry that got canned in 2011.
Supposedly Spiller has been writing a rock musical, and that style seeps into sister songs ‘Fire’ and ‘Ashes’, which may well work on the stage or in an episode of Glee but contain far too much cheese to contend with on a record by an actual rock band.
The Struts knew they had to make changes from their previous work and possibly stretch out their appeal on this record, and they deserve credit for giving it a go. However, the bottom line is that they’ve misjudged it too many times here, and most of the redeeming qualities of the record come from what we already knew they were good at.