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The Struts New Album, “Pretty Vicious”

“Pretty Vicious” stands as the fourth studio album by British Rock band The Struts— comprised of Luke Spiller on lead vocals, Adam Slack on guitar, Jed Elliot on bass guitar, and Gethin Davies on drums—and it is the refreshing reincarnation of rock ‘n’ roll that we desperately need.

“Too Good at Raising Hell” starts the record off with a rocker to say the least, complete with slick guitars, an exhilarating chorus, and the surprise of bright horns. Spiller reaches a full range of his talents across this entire album, but he really pulls you in with this song in particular. His flow of language is captivating and demands movement.

“Pretty Vicious” has been the long-anticipated song to emerge from this album. After being teased across social media in 2022, fans were treated to an acoustic take on the band’s “Unplugged at EastWest” album. This studio version makes the acoustic take feel skeletal where it now feels full-blown with a deserving guitar solo by Slack, funky bass by Elliot, and Davies’ articulately strong drums. The best comparison between the two is in the studio version: the rises and falls create greater contrast in the electrified sound space. Here you can feel the slow burn from the first chorus to the second pre-chorus where Spiller takes it up another level. And once more following Slack’s impeccable solo, Spiller leads you in slowly to explode in this power over the song transforming it into a songscape of pure energy.

“I Won’t Run” takes on a familiar space for long-time Struts fans with this encouraging tune reminiscent of their biggest hit, “Could Have Been Me.” However, the narrator is more mature and experienced compared to the adolescence of “Could Have Been Me.” This song conveys determination and strength rather than in-your-face defiance. The cosmic opening leads through the hardships of living with the line, “Before the dawn I know it’s gonna get darker / And I’ve got nothing left of me to give / But I ain’t finished yet.” The message of “don’t give up” remains the same in both songs, but now there is this sense of courage that invokes a similar musical evolution and maturity between Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town.”

The Struts have this very distinct flare when it comes to break-up songs that stems back to their first album with “Mary Go Round.” “Hands On Me” pulls out this love-sick Spiller crying out his troubles, begging for redemption. He’s accompanied by this rock-ballad sound reminiscent of Journey’s “Faithfully.” What makes this song stand out is its blatant display of the reality of break-ups that leave lovers craving the physical affection of their ex-partner. Where most artists tend to focus on communicating feelings through break-up songs, the Struts have done so without the sappy clichés and instead expressed those undeniable demands of feeling love’s touch.

“Do What You Want” upon first listening follows suit with “Primadonna Like Me” with a jumping chorus and similar guitar lead-in. Maybe it’s the simple coincidence that this song sounds like an opener and that “Primadonna Like Me” was the band’s go-to opener for several years. A positive contrast between the two songs is the narrator, who before was inviting others to be like him, now he’s in awe of the receiver and can’t contain his admiration for them.

“Rockstar” embodies everything you could hope for in a Struts song with its immediate anticipatory lead-in followed by heavy guitars, pounding drums, and Spiller’s vigorously energetic vocals. While it’s expected to be a self-reflective song on being a rock star, it’s really a love letter to Struts fans who go to shows and “give their all.” During shows, Spiller is fond of pointing out fans he sees singing every word along with him and encouraging the audience to dance and jump along with him. He constantly gives 110% which only makes fans want to match his efforts; they always do. This song is for those fans who scream their voice out at Struts shows and follow Spiller’s every step during his crazed crowd-conducting.

“Remember the Name” falls right in line with “Too Good at Raising Hell” with its tasteful innuendos and “yeah, yeah, yeah” call and response. This song fulfills the expectation of “Rockstar” with its catalog of rising to stardom and how fast a life can change in the game of fame.

“Bad Decisions” follows “Remember the Name” and addresses the natural byproduct of fame. While it could apply to love, it isn’t boxed into that frame which allows it to stand out on the album as a gloomy regretful foil to “I Won’t Run.”

“Better Love” is, by far, the gem of this record. The Struts have expanded romantic perspectives to this irresistible story told through infectious lyrics and underscored by Eliott’s exceptionally inventive bass. The song speaks for itself more so than I ever could.

“Gimme Some Blood” takes an unexpected turn with the chorus abruptly changing from its initial tone. Slack flourishes here with his contributions sounding reminiscent of Brian May’s chiming harmonious style. Combined with the E Street-style piano and Spiller’s powerful vocals, it is the perfect recipe for a rock ballad.

“Somebody Someday” completes the album with a song reminiscent of Springsteen’s “Growin’ Up” complete with adolescent references to parents’ opinions and young love. However, this song embodies a cinematic character with its orchestral arrangements allowing the narrative to unfold like the ending of a classic film.