Lots of music comes and goes for me, but at the end of it all, my heart still comes back to the basics of guitar-based rock and roll. Unfortunately, by 2015, that genre was fading fast, at least in the mainstream world of popular music as hip-hop, R&B and other electronic genres took hold, along with a highly diversified mix of artists. There were still hard rock bands and various strains of guitar rock, but most of it was pretty intense and was closely connected to the roots of metal and grunge and was frankly a bit depressing. Thankfully for me, I was driving one morning on I-95 south of Jacksonville, and I just happened to turn on the radio and heard this funky riff-mix of guitar, bass, drums with a hint of synthesizer that changed my life.
There have been several bands who I have embraced so significantly that they became embedded in my lifestyle, and I’m grateful to celebrate the UK glam-rock, classic-rock, whatever you want to call them-rock band who is bringing a fresh sound to an iconic brand of music, the Struts. From Derby in the United Kingdom, this band has recorded several albums and spent the last decade on the road, and as a faithful and committed fan, I have seen them live 15 times, in 13 different venues, in 7 different states. Their shows are enthusiastically high-energy, led by today’s perfect front-man and showman, Luke Spiller. A guitar band has to have a strong guitarist, and the songwriting, playing and singing of Adam Slack is equally essential to the success of the band. Jed Elliott on bass, and Gethin Davies on drums joined the band after Luke and Adam and are superior showmen and performers in their own right. In total, this band is just too much fun, whether it be live on stage or on record. I always hope for them to really blow up in popularity, but for now, I also consider myself equally blessed to be able to see them in so many different intimate clubs that have become a part of my lifestyle and fiber as a music fan.
Their debut album was released to the U.S. in 2016 after its 2014 debut in the UK and is one of my favorite albums of all time. If I could only take ten (probably even five) records to a desert island, this would be one of them. As I noted above, my attention was first captured by the funky rocker that is “Kiss This”, and after I purchased the CD and listened to the entire album, I was instantly hooked.
Oddly enough, if I HAD to pick a least-favorite song, and that would be a challenge here, it would probably be the opener, “Roll Up”. It is a true set-opener as it announces the band’s arrival, but the hook from this song just doesn’t completely grab me the way the others do. However, from that point on, it is just song after song of highly infectious tracks that are hard rocking, but with pop sensibility, somewhat reminiscent of the way David Lee Roth worked with Eddie Van Halen to record rocking songs that people enjoyed dancing and bouncing to just as much.
“Could Have Been Me” is the second song, and usually is the last song they play in a live show. By far their most streamed song, it’s hard not to embrace the message of the lyrics. “Don’t wanna live as an untold story, Rather go out in a blaze of glory… I wanna live better days, Never look back and say, Could Have Been Me!” Amen, Luke.
Next is “Kiss This”, which to this day still rates as my all-time favorite Struts song. The crunchy riff is phenomenal, and when augmented by Jed on bass, this song just sends me into a frenzy, whether I’m at a show or not.
The hits keep coming with “Put Your Money on Me”, which is probably their best pop-rock song. If you see Luke Spiller in person or on stage, there is a hint of androgyny in his delivery, and after showing my parents a video of the Struts performing this awesome song, my mom told me she was confused by two women kissing at the beginning of the video. Of course, we know that A), there is nothing wrong with that even if it were so, and B), it was just Luke and his then-girlfriend. That absurdity aside, it really is a great hook and often the first song I play for potential new Struts listeners.
They display their diversity with the breakup ballad “Mary Go Round”, which has proven to be a fan favorite for sing-along at live shows as they usually play it with just Adam on acoustic guitar accompanying Luke. The quality of songs on this first album is remarkably consistent, and in a different era, I have to think many of these songs, this one included, would have been massive radio hits.
The next two songs are sassy and a bit on the provocative side, and excellent up-tempo numbers. “Dirty Sexy Money” is another staple of their current live show, and while “The Ol’ Switcheroo” is slightly less familiar, it is a hilarious perspective on the longing eyes of two different couples. “She Makes Me Feel Like” is perhaps a bit more wholesome in its theme yet, if possible, even more happy and catchy in its delivery.
“Young Stars” is more of an anthemic rocker, even more so than many of these others, but they all play really well to a house full of enthusiastic fans. This one has another lyrical misstep for me, as I thought for years Luke was embracing technology and singing “I was buffering”, when it was in fact, “I was born for it”. Unlike many of his peers, his British accent almost always shines through in his vocals, which completely adds to the charm and appeal of the Struts.
Two last songs I will highlight are “These Times Are Changing” and “Where Did She Go”. Both are raucous tracks that are perfect for crowd sing-along, and “Where Did She Go” served for many years as their “human fireworks” track, when Luke would have the entire crowd get on the ground, then burst into crazy jumping at his demand. Ahh.. to be a rock star and have the audience in the palm of your hands.
If you haven’t heard the Struts, “Everything Wants” is a fabulous place to start. Even today, it is my favorite of their three records, and many of these hits remain the backbone of their spectacular live show. Go see them live, enjoy the records, but as Luke Spiller would famously say, “Remember the name the Struts!”