The Strange Boys - Be Brave

If this is an indicator of what could come on album three or four, they could be very special indeed.

The Strange Boys

hail from Texas. This is identifiable in approximately three seconds of their album ‘Be Brave’. Opening track ‘I See’ kicks off with xylophone, harmonica and a stomping drumbeat, which may not sound particularly Texan, but the rootsy guitar underpinning the harmonica’s melody is as Deep South rock n’roll as you can get - here is a band firmly entrenched in their rich musical heritage, who’ve consolidated it into a far more pliable, modern sound. All becomes clear when you learn they relocated to Austin (home of South by Southwest).

Singer Ryan Sambols’ nasal drawl conjures images of a singer beyond his years (his lyrics, however, do not. But we shall address them later), much in the same way Adam Stephens of Two Gallants did. In terms of comparison points, this is a strong one. The more melancholic, subtle moments on the album, such as ‘A Walk On The Bleach’, are infused with a sense of defiance and righteous anger that recalls Two Gallants at their peak. With youth also comes brashness: it’s fair to say that ‘Be Brave’ is filled with this. The title track (and first single) is a case in point. A simple guitar lick is accompanied by stomping drums (this record seems to employ only two types of rhythm: the stomp and the shuffle). The chorus’ refrain of “I don’t have to be brave (boy you gotta be brave!)” changes throughout the song, ending in the lamenting “seems like I don’t have a choice to me”.

This could well be true of the band themselves. Their first album (‘And Girls Club’) was something of a sleeper hit in their native country and this album pushes the boundaries laid down there further, incorporating new instruments and a greater sense of experimentation. This is in line with the youthful arrogance/defiance on display, a belief that they can be successful in whatever endeavour they adhere to on the record. Don’t be mistaken, this is no avant garde record – the experimentation is subtle but noticeable.

Now we come to the bad: the lyrics. There are some truly crass ones on display. ‘Laugh At Sex, Not Her’ in particular is cringeworthy at points (example: ‘I don’t know if they love each other fo’sure, sure sounds like they do… sex is like laughter, you do it differently with different people and sometimes feel sick after’). Musically, the song is one of the albums strongest - the melody through the song is infectious and the minimalism on display works very well. If the lyrics matched it, it could well be one of the songs of the year. The track can be used to represent the mood and tone of the album though, and if this is an indicator of what could come on album three or four, they could be very special indeed.

Tags: The Strange Boys, Reviews, Album Reviews

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