With a description of “No Doubt meets Imelda May”, it was hard to deny an urge to go explore those it has been applied to. The fact that the protagonists in question’s debut album has caught the imagination of and been released by Western Star Records only added to that instinct. What we found was one rousing stomp of a release in the shape of Drop Out Zone from a band in The Strays which had us bouncing from start to finish with a highly appetising mix of rockabilly, garage rock, and fifties inspired rock ‘n’ roll with plenty more involved.
Cheltenham based, The Strays have already been teasing proper attention with the release of their first EP, Wham Bam, Thank You Ma’am, in 2017. It was an introduction of sound and potential potently reaffirmed by its successor Brand New Day the following year while the two records union together as Brand New Ma’am! earlier this year provided an ear grabbing tease for the upcoming adventure of Drop Out Zone. Of course some of us are only coming to the British quartet through the album but a look back shows The Strays an already captivating proposition with a sound to match but their new release sees the band at their most imaginative, adventurous, and striking yet.
With songs inspired by the band’s decision to quit their full-time jobs and focus on music and the struggles it brought and they conquered, Drop Out Zone quickly, hungrily had ears on board with the opening canter of first track, Hey Little Lady. Straight away the throaty lure of Kris Jakab-Hall’s bass colludes with the crisply landing swings of drummer Gary Chamberlain; their collusion instantly firing up attention and physical response before the spicy threads of Sam Cordery’s guitar added to the animated bait. The song’s subsequent potent stroll sees the magnetic tones of Stella Sonic complete the temptation, the spring in its step and grin on its face across as good as four and a half minutes setting the tone for the fun and enterprise fuelling the release.
Things only grow more compelling and contagious as 2Fives and Twos sets its creative trap, it too another song which needs mere seconds to grip ears and appetite as Cordery winds addictive melodic wires around both. Punk and rockabilly soon converge on the rock ‘n’ roll instincts of the song, its tenacious gait and contagiousness a quick infestation of body with the Pauline Murray-esque tint to Sonic’s voice icing on the delicious cake.
Night Time Is The Right Time grabs its portion of ardour next. Again the guitar casts a highly tempting lure to gets things boiling before, with matching flavours to those entangling within its predecessor, the track weaves its own individual boisterous romp. Sharp hooks and alluring harmonies go to highlight the inventive come-on before Oh Baby No opens up its jazzy arms to a seductive surf lined midnight stroll through rock ‘n’ pop drama. It is one of those tracks where it is easy to see where those No Doubt, Imelda May and for us Wanda Jackson references are bred.
The Strays certainly know how to kick a song off, each sparked by imaginative and irresistible leads and no more potently than that springing Get Out Of This Town into life. Guitar and rhythms surround ears with intrigue and salacious intent, nagging rhythms and a hooked loaded guitar groove taunting and dancing with attention before the song opens up into its swing-a-billy saunter, dragging the body easily along for the ride.
The album’s title track allows a breath to be taken though it too is a buddle of energy and infectiousness with its pop toned amble refusing to be ignored; Drop Out Zone proving increasingly manipulative by the second and chorus. It’s easy to ride contagion is soon eclipsed though as the psychobilly wired Can’t Get Through To You preys on ears with its Hillybilly Moon Explosion like predation and feral catchiness though it too is slightly outshone by its successor. Fire and Ice is a glorious fusion of hooked swamped rock ‘n’ roll flavours, a real temptress of a song soon ripping favourite track honours from any of its companions hands.
The intoxicating fifties country blues soaked nurtured rockabilly of Twelve Bar Booze, thoughts of Wanda Jackson again sparked by the great addition to the pleasure, and the heavy hard rock spiced rumble of Break Me Down effortlessly keep the album roaring in body and spirit, This Life following suit with its deviously persuasive foot stomping fusion of swing, garage punk, and rock ‘n’ roll, a full pleasure sounding something akin to The BeauBowBelles meets No Doubt meets The Creepshow.
Just Another Day completes the album, its fiery rock breath and instinctive rhythmic pulse swagger an unapologetically tempting canvas for the ever tasty tones of Sonic and the virulent craft and endeavours of the band. It is a fine end to an album which just got under the skin in swift time and devilishly nestled there thereon in; The Strays providing another of the year’s real pleasures.
Drop Out Zone is out now through Western Star Records.
Pete RingMaster 20/08/2019
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