There are a million bands called “The (Somethings)” so the odds that an appropriate name would still be available after all this time should be slim. But here’s a trio of guys assembled from afar – a Brit, a Yank and a Greek – so the moniker kind of fits. And when you consider that the singers dad is on anyone’s shortlist of greatest white soul singers ever, well…alrighty then. And there was always something of the street urchin stray dog in Steve Marriott, wasn’t there?
Toby Marriott has the legendary name but is wisely cutting his own path; The Strays are far more reminiscent of bands like The Clash, The Jam and Jamaican reggae, where dad Steve mined pop, music hall and blues for his amazing run. I even heard someone call them “The Killers, but with bigger balls“, and that’s not half bad either. Their excellent 2006 debut on TVT Records really got me excited; I started to think that this DNA/genetics thing might have some merit after all.
But I always figured a young band faced with relentless touring would almost have to kick out another album by now, right? Umm…you didn’t implode on me, did ya lads? Is this it? Is the future…noir?
The Strays: Le Futur Noir
Although Toby Marriott’s dad is arguably the finest rock voice the UK has ever spawned, The Strays owe a far bigger debt to The Clash than The Small Faces or Humble Pie. As lead vocalist and guitarist, Marriott leads a trio that is rhythmic and urgent, a rougher sounding Oasis whose music bleeds Jamaican ska alongside classic rock and 1977 punk, an engaging and consistently satisfying mix. Make no mistake, The Strays rock; “Servant Of The Gun” turns Nirvana on its ear.
Yet right alongside political anthems like “Block Alarm” and “Start A Riot”, The Strays will slide in a pitch-perfect pop single like “This Is Forever”, somehow blending The Jam and Gene Loves Jezebel into one song. (Not a lark – the hidden bonus track is a Lords of the New Church cover!) The album graphics and song titles will probably scare the beejezus out of most people, but underneath it all is the genesis of a band wise beyond their years. Steve would approve, lad.
(this review originally ran in Pop Culture Press)