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The Strange Boys - Live Music

The most commercial Strange Boys record yet.

Austin Texas’ Strange Boys have been on the margins of a mainstream breakthrough for a while now. Their appealing brand of good time garage rock n roll and rootsy Americana has garnered plenty of critical plaudits and has also seen the band feature on the soundtrack of a number of television shows, most incongruously in a an episode of Skins. However, real mainstream success has always eluded the group. Perhaps confusingly titled third album ‘Live Music’ (It’s not a live album, the title refers to live as in being alive) will be the record that sees them decisively cross over.

‘Live Music’ is certainly the most commercial Strange Boys record yet, the ragged and loose garage rock freakouts of their debut ’Strange Boys And Girls Club’ and second album ’Be Brave’ have largely been jettisoned in favour of a more freewheeling good time laidback rock and roll sound. The late sixties and early seventies influences hang heavy, The Rolling Stones influence can be heard in the stomping bar room boogie of lead single ‘Me & You’ which features a wonderfully catchy honky tonk piano line and sees singer Ryan Sambols expressing his love for a pretty girl: ‘We’re the same picture me and you.’

It perhaps makes sense that The Strange Boys sound has developed into a cleaner more mature style on their third album, although it is arguable as to whether they have lost some of the ragged charm that made them initially so exciting in the process. The pace rarely rises above sedate here and the tone is, in the most part, languid and laidback. Harmonica and boogie woogie piano are prevalent throughout. This does, however, bring out beautifully the quality of the Strange Boys song writing, particularly in the sweetly heartfelt acoustic love song ‘You & Me’ as Sambols sighs ‘We’re all missing the one person we wish we were kissing.’

The one area where ‘Live Music’ misfires is the quality control, 14 tracks is an awful lot for an album that rarely deviates in style or sound and a few more of the weaker tracks like the formulaic country rock of ‘Walking Two By Two’ or the ponderous and meandering ‘Over The River And Through’ could have easily been pruned.

The last two tracks, however, make up for the relative filler that clogs up the middle of the album. Highlight ‘Hidden Meaning, Low Traffic’ sees the band really cut loose for the first time and it is an extremely thrilling hook filled rock track carried by the loveliest of melodies and a glorious harmonica solo. The album closes on a high with the valedictory bar room sing-along chorus and twinkling pianos of ’You Take Everything For Granted’

The Strange Boys are certainly not a band to come to if you are looking for innovation and invention, but if you are looking for tight, good time rock n roll mixed with great pop hooks then they will do just fine.

Tags: The Strange Boys, Reviews, Album Reviews

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