I’ve always said to the guys, “We’re a different act…” We’re a bit of a funny band. Our pathway has been nothing short of unique, but I like it; it’s good to be different.
– Luke Spiller (Frontman, The Struts)
There is no secret to success, but many of rock music’s legends – Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, The Beatles, The Doors, Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, AC/DC, etc. – do share something in common: Each has a distinct sound that has rarely (if ever) been well-replicated. These artists own their characteristics; standing out amongst a sea of contemporary music-makers, they owe their success not to being there first, but to doing it best. That’s why they are still looked upon as legends in their field, despite the passing decades and increased availability of music production software. A couple guitars and a MacBook Pro just don’t cut it.
A cursory glance around the venue at a Struts concert shows that The Struts are not your average 21st century band: Seldom can one find eager college students mingling with middle-aged couples, but The Struts bring young and old together. For the forty and fifty-year-olds, this UK act induces nostalgia: With long hair, ’80s glam-inspired outfits, and music deeply rooted in the “classic rock” sounds of the ’70s and ’80s, The Struts are a fond throwback to a familiar time. For teens, twenty-somethings and thirty-year-olds, The Struts are the saviors of rock n roll – the messiah these millennials have all been waiting for.
There’s something about The Struts that sets them apart from today’s myriad of superfluous rock bands. With an assumed confidence and a pristinely polished sound, The Struts pump out stadium-sized, melody-driven anthems that feed off melodic repetition, dynamic pop choruses, and the sheer unrelenting willpower of theatrical frontman Luke Spiller. They channel those “unobtainable” qualities of rock music’s legends through new wiring, breathing life into the lost art cherished by Plant, Bowie, Mercury, and Jagger.
But do The Struts own their sound?
The curse for every new rock band is that they are judged amongst a half-century-long list of rock music artists and almost immediately compared to (or against) the genre’s greats. Their test is not so much to embody the spirits of Zeppelin or Floyd, but more so to carry the torch, using the influences of those who came before to trudge onward. This is where The Struts’ greatest asset becomes their greatest burden: How can a band with such an obvious and instant connection to the likes of Queen and The Rolling Stones also assert their autonomy from these venerable names?
Authenticity is a key ingredient in rock music: If you pop out of nowhere and sound like pure gold, critics tend to get suspicious. To The Struts’ credit, they’ve been hustling for years. “We’ve gone through so many bitter things – I think we’ve gone through about four labels now, but we’ve never been dropped, technically,” said Luke Spiller in last year’s Atwood Magazine feature.
The band took the long road to success, forming in Derby, England in 2010 and releasing their UK debut Kiss This EP in early 2014 via Virgin EMI Records. (For temporal context, the EP contains an over-the-top cover of Lorde’s worldwide smash “Royals.”) The band’s debut album Everybody Wants followed later that year, but despite an incessant, impressive touring schedule, The Struts never seemed to break through, peaking at 52 on the UK charts. They got a second chance at a first start through signing with American label Interscope Records in 2015, and have been aggressively touring North America since releasing their Have You Heard EP in September 2015. The band released a revitalized version of Everybody Wants earlier this month, and though it bears the same name as its predecessor, the record bears some major changes. The new album features 8 remastered, re-recorded or re-written versions of songs from the band’s 2014 debut, as well as 5 new tracks.
It truly feels as though The Struts got the unique opportunity to press the “redo” button. To their credit, they haven’t taken a second of this moment for granted. Capitalizing off their time in the studio, the band took the best moments on their first album (“Roll Up,” “Could Have Been Me,” “Kiss This,” etc.) and matched, if not superseded them with a fresh batch of electrifying moments.
Basically, my girlfriend at the time cheated on me with one of my good friends, and… And [“Kiss This”] came out of it, really. It was a liberating song – I didn’t want it to be a “boo-hoo,” you know? “Ooh, she’s gone…” you know, it’s one of those songs where it’s like, “You know what? Fuck you… If you’re going to do that, I’m better than that.” So it’s not a “boo-hoo” break-up song; it’s more of a liberating, standing up on your own two feet kind of track, which is really cool.
– Luke Spiller discusses what “Kiss This” means to him
There’s plenty to be thankful for on Everybody Wants. In addition to the 2014 redo-s (some of which have previously been discussed here), the album’s new tracks are particularly inviting. The ballad “Mary Go Round” finds a vulnerable Spiller lamenting a lost love through an enchanting chorus and viscerally visual imagery. The explosive “Young Stars” finds Spiller undergoing a Bowie-esque Ziggy Stardust moment:
Young star, you’re famous
You strut around shameless
We love you, don’t hate us
‘Cause you won’t forget us
Young star you’re ageless
You’re so loud, outrageous
We need you, don’t hate us
(Hey young star)
‘Cause you won’t forget us
Listen: “Young Stars” – The Struts
Spiller’s penchant for theatrics and flamboyance takes The Struts to impossible heights, adding a layer of palpable personality atop the band’s already lively music. With “The Ol’ Switcheroo,” the band defies the safe “pop protocol” of most label-signed acts, instead going for the jugular in a song about switching partners:
‘Cause I want, what he’s got
And he wants what I’ve got
And I know what you want
So let’s trade what we’ve got
He’ll be with her
I’ll be with you
And nobody’s blue
How times have changed there’s nothing wrong
With the ol’ switcheroo
Comical and unabashed, “The Ol’ Switcheroo” mixes quick wit with clever lyricism on an infectiously catchy chorus. It finds The Struts doing what The Struts do best: Injecting a good time into every song.
For, at the end of the day, how better to describe The Struts than as a rock n’ roll band looking for a rollicking good time? Everybody Wants is the story of the mortal members of that band, opening up with the larger-than-life assumption of “Roll Up” and continuing down a maze of human emotion and experience. Spiller sings about everything from living with personal demons and overcoming insecurities, to his disenchanting breakup with his ex, switching sexual partners, and the flirtations of a seductive lady of the night.
At the end of it all is a song about chasing the ghosts of one’s past. Spiller wrote “Where Did She Go” over ten years ago, when he was sixteen and “coming home drunk from a night out.” A simple rock song in many respects, “Where Did She Go” is indicative of both where the band came from and how far the band has come. “That’s when you know you’ve got a good song, you know?” Spiller mused, “When it gets better with age, like a fine wine.” Even on this heavy-hitter, The Struts turn meaning on its head, celebrating the good times that have been had rather than wallowing in self-pity at the thought of no more good times ahead.
If you like The Struts’ music, then you will love Everybody Wants. An endless barrage of shiny rock, Everybody Wants is the perfectly polished debut album that could only be made in the 21st century. At another time, signing with a US label would have resulted in an American re-release (sans-touch-ups) of Everybody Wants, and The Struts would have closely followed that up with new material on a sophomore album. Unfortunately, the current state of affairs for labels and artists is such that every second counts, meaning every song has to be a banger: There can be no throwaways if you’re trying to reach perfection. The Struts follow through in that respect, producing a flawless album that captures many sides of the band’s dynamic personalities while also encapsulating the essence of their distinct sound.
The Struts breathe life into a world bleeding with blithe sameness. Sonic diversity and song complexity take a backseat to lyrics, melody and dynamics on their stunning debut, allowing them to hone in on their sound and introduce the entity which is The Struts in as forceful and direct a manner as possible. Everybody Wants is the debut album three-plus years in the making, but the band’s blood, sweat and tears have paid off in a big way, granting them cross-generational appeal, a presence on America’s pop music charts, and a definite and promising future in the music world.
There’s something about The Struts that sets them apart. They’re a young, virile band with a thirst for life and a powerful appreciation for the past, present, and future. Their songs are fresh and catchy, and the band is led by an impressively evocative, powerful lead singer who wants nothing more than to get every last listener up on his or her feet. Everybody Wants is the embodiment of that spirit, capturing the persistence and resilience of a band who never gave up and who will stop at nothing to be heard.
Sure, their sound borrows from, and at times strongly resembles that of rock’s greats. It’s easy to throw The Struts under the bus for such a similarity. However, that instant recognizability stems not only from musical parallels to the past, but also from The Struts’ own comprehensive embrace of their big rockstar dreams.
Yes, The Struts own their sound. With their newfound success in the States, they’re also living out their fantasies: Everybody wants The Struts.
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Everybody Wants – The Struts
The Struts 2016 Tour
Tickets available at thestruts.com
March 28 – Santa Barbara, CA – Velvet Jones
March 29 – Santa Ana, CA – The Observatory—Constellation Room
March 30 – San Diego, CA – House of Blues
April 1 – Tempe, AZ – Tempe Marketplace
April 2 – Tucson, AZ – The Rock
April 16 – The Woodlands, TX – Buzzfest 35
April 18 – Corpus Christi, TX – House of Rock
April 20 – Austin, TX – Parish
April 22 – Oklahoma City, OK – Diamond Ballroom
April 23 – Tulsa, OK – The Vanguard
April 25 – Little Rock, AR – Sticky’z Rock N’ Roll Chicken Shack
April 26 – Nashville, TN – Mercy Lounge
April 27 – Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue Theatre
April 29 – Memphis, TN – Beale Street Music Festival
April 30 – Frisco, TX – KDGE Edgefest
May 2 – Des Moines, IA – Wooly’s
May 3 – Milwaukee, WI – The Rave III
May 4 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
May 6 – Kansas City, MO – Middle of the Map Fest
May 8 – Concord, NC – Carolina Rebellion
May 9 – Johnson City, TN – Capone’s
May 10 – Pittsburgh, PA – Altar Bar
May 12 – Norfolk, VA – Norva
May 14 – Atlanta, GA – Shaky Knees Music Fest
May 17 – Fort Lauderdale, FL – Culture Room
May 18 – Orlando, FL – The Social
May 20-22 – Columbus, OH – Rock on the Range
May 21 – Maryland Heights, MO – 105.7 KPNT Pointfest
May 22-24 – Gulf Shore, AL – Hangout Festival
May 28 – Napa, CA – BottleRock Napa Valley
June 3-5 – Nurnberg, Germany – Rock im Park
June 3-5 – Mendig, Germany – Rock am Ring
June 8-11 – Solvesborg, Sweden – Sweden Rock Festival
June 10 – Landgraaf, Netherlands – Pinkpop Festival
June 11 – Paris, France – Download Festival
June 12 – Nickelsdorf, Austria – Nova Rock Festival
June 16-18 – Madrid, Spain – Mad Cool Festival
June 19 – Dover, DE – Firefly Music Festival
June 30-July 1 – Rotselaar, Belgium – Rock Werchter
July 1-3 – Cambral, France – Main Square Festival
July 22-24 – Oro-Medonte, Canada – WayHome Music and Arts Festival
July 29-31 – Montreal, Canada – Osheaga