The Struts — ‘Strange Days’
THE GOOD: British rockers the Struts give us their blistering third.
THE BAD: No complaints.
THE NITTY GRITTY: “Strange Days” was recorded over two weeks during last year’s COVID-19 lockdowns. The band intended to make an EP to keep its name active while touring was an impossibility. However, a sudden burst of creativity (or quarantine boredom) crept in, and the 10-song “Strange Days” is the inspired result.
Boasting everything from hip-swaying frenzies (“All Dressed Up”) to bluesy rockers (“Am I Talking to the Champagne”) to even a halfway decent KISS cover (“Do You Love Me”), “Strange Days” has something for the classic rocker buried deep inside all of us.
The record’s best two tracks also boast some heavy guest stars. The insanely catchy “I Hate How Much I Want You” gets a lift from Def Leppard’s Phil Collen and Joe Elliot. Albert Hammond Jr. of the Strokes lends his melodic hand to “Another Hit of Showmanship.” These days are not only strange, they’re big and bold, too.
BUY IT?: Yep.
The Bats — ‘Foothills’
THE GOOD: New Zealand indie rockers the Bats come back with their 10th.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The band has remained intact for almost 40 years (no lineup changes), and its style is timeless, with intelligent, catchy, jangle pop that never gets old. Guitarist/vocalist Robert Scott still handles most songwriting duties, never running out of sneaky hooks.
One can divide the Bats’ history into two parts. The classic period consists of the first five albums released between 1987 and 1995. Shortly after 1995’s “Couchmaster,” the group took a decade-long hiatus to explore other projects and recharge its power-pop batteries.
We’ve been in the group’s second era since 2005’s brilliant “At the National Grid.” “Foothills” is now another jewel in the catalog. Less jubilant than some past efforts, the record finds band members maturing gracefully as they offer up songs both delicate and introspective (“Another Door”) and just as driven and infectious as ever (“Smaller Pieces”). This strong effort proves the band hasn’t worn out its welcome.
BUY IT?: Definitely.
The Cribs — ‘Night Network’
THE GOOD: British alt-rockers the Cribs wrap up their second decade by releasing an eighth album.
THE BAD: All good.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Consisting of the three Jarmon Brothers, the Cribs is a survivor of the early 2000s Brit rock revival (Libertines, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, etc.). After working with high-profile producers such as Dave Fridmann, Steve Albini and Ric Ocasek, the guys decided to self-produce “Network.” The songs don’t suffer in the least bit. They even managed to get Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo in the studio for a track.
Why mess with a fantastic formula? We get another catchy collection of ear candy that’s either somewhat gentle (“Goodbye”) or slightly blistering (“Deep Infatuation”). The brothers are never short on soaring melodies and big riffs, recalling everything from ’90s Ash to early Weezer to prime Strokes. The entire album is straightforward but never sounds stuck in one place for long. The tunes are that distinct, the moods and tempos that varied.
BUY IT?: Surely.