Arts, Music, Review

Talented Guests Steal the Spotlight on ‘Strange Days’

Rating: 3 out of 5.

After a 10-day recording session in quarantine, British rock band The Struts have returned with their third album Strange Days. Featuring collaborations with Tom Morello and members of Def Leppard, the album hits some very powerful highs, but unfortunately many songs on the album sink far below those heights. Luke Spiller’s voice is just as impressive as ever, but the rest of the music seems to struggle to keep up. Strange Days is still a solid album that’s worth a listen, but it doesn’t hit quite as hard as The Struts’ previous work.

The album’s themes address the state of the world in quarantine, at least at first. The title track portrays the uncertainty of these “strange days.” Spiller’s and Robbie Williams’ powerful vocals complain, “We don’t know, it’s unclear / Where we’ll be this time next year,” and it feels much more real than some half-hearted message of optimism. 

Yet despite the song’s strength, the rest of the album barely touches on these ideas. An entire pandemic-themed album might have been a bit much, but the rest of the lyrical content on the album is unremarkable. No specific line feels out of place, but nothing is notably clever or eye catching. Most of the tracks on Strange Days are just generic love songs and feel fairly forgettable. 

Spiller’s vocals are as impressive as always, but sometimes it feels like he’s holding back. Spiller is at his best when he’s loud and proud, but on the Strange Days tracks “Cool” and “Do You Love Me,” he just doesn’t make as much of an impression as he has on previous tracks such as “Could Have Been Me” and “One Night Only.”

One of the highlights of the album has to be “I Hate How Much I Want You,” which features Joe Elliott and Phil Collen of Def Leppard on vocals and guitar. Elliott and Spiller almost seem to be competing to be the best singer, and it’s all the more impressive to hear. Collen’s guitar lends powerful riffs that only add to the experience. In fact, one of the only problems with this track is that Collen completely upstages the rest of the album.

The only track that compares to “I Hate How Much I Want You” is “Wild Child” with Morello on guitar. Given Morello’s talent, the song’s strength is not much of a surprise. Once again, the rest of the album is overshadowed by a featured artist. None of the other songs are truly awful, but the album peaks during its collaborations. Struts guitarist Adam Slack pales in comparison to the two guest performers’ skills. 

Even Albert Hammond Jr. of The Strokes doesn’t make much of an impression on “Another Hit of Showmanship” compared to Morello and Collen. In fact, he feels a bit wasted on the track. While the song is about how the band misses performing, it lacks any of its titular showmanship. Despite the big name feature, the song is bland and generic.
The Struts deserve a pat on the back for creating a solid album during strange times. Spiller’s voice is as delectable as always, but it feels like he’s not at his full potential. As collaborations with some of the biggest names in rock and roll, “Wild Child” and “I Hate How Much I Want You” shine the brightest out of all the tracks. On Strange Days, The Struts are lucky enough to nab talented guest artists—artists who, inevitably, end up stealing the show.

Photo courtesy of Interscope Records

October 23, 2020