At first glance, the front cover of the debut and self-titled album by The Strange Blue Dreams, might seem to hint at sci-fi or electronica. The back is emblazoned with an embroidered shirt Elvis would have been proud of. Just what is this band about?
On the CD player, a burst of fizzing electricity leads into the first track, also helpfully called ‘Electricity’, with its strong hints of Joe Meek and traces of Heinz’s ‘Just Like Eddie’ in the riff.
Here’s essence of Richard Hawley in ‘The Ballad Of The Sun And The Moon’, a dash of Stray Cats in the swaggering rockabilly of ‘Reverberatin’ Love’, a bathtub of lush doowop harmonies in ‘Twilight Zone’. ‘Pretending Everything’ layers up some Hawaiian guitar while ‘Jungle Drums’ comes straight out of a forgotten “Let’s do the whole show right here on the beach” B-movie. Playing ‘spot the influence’ could take all day.
Singer Dave Addison has a creamy voice with just a hint of rasp at the edges, which is very appealing and works perfectly with this style of music. He moves from croon to holler with fluid ease. The band, having spent the past five years honing its style, is tight and supple.
David Rae’s expert mandolin playing helps lend extra diversity and flexibility to the band’s sound, whether it’s a passing nod to Harry Lime theme Greek style or something altogether more klezmer. And on ‘(That’s The Place) I’m Falling’, a mariachi brass section goes full-on spaghetti western.
It’s fair to say this album throws in a bit of everything and the kitchen sink, drawing extensively on pop’s mid-50s to mid-60s heyday, with much broader references in the mix, too. It’s a brilliantly realised distillation of genres, where every song will remind you of at least three other great tunes you haven’t heard in ages and really should. Producer George Miller (one-time member of The Kaisers, whose Beat It Up album rides high in my estimation) adds to the overall impression that here are a bunch of truly dedicated devotees of the modern retro sound.
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‘Electricity’ – official video: