Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Strawberry Blondes - "Fight Back:

Despite their somewhat cutesy name that might remind some of us of a certain cartoon our sisters used to make us watch in the 1980s, the UK’s Strawberry Blondes play a rough, melodic brand of punk rock that falls somewhere between Rancid and Anti-Flag.

Admittedly, much of the album is fairly standard anthemic and slightly sloganeering street-styled punk (see “Social Control,” “Revolution Radio”). However, there are some effective guest spots on Fight Back that give the album some much needed deviation and break up the homogeny a bit.

The most significant of such appearances in regards to the album’s variety comes from New York’s King Django of the Stubborn All-Stars and Skinnerbox on the horn-punk number “Manners and Respect.” Joey LaRocca of the Briggs drops by the four-and-a-half-minute “Goodbye Inspiration” to help out a bit on the hooks, though the repetitive formula keeps the track from really flourishing.

While there are some straight-ahead punk tracks that stand out among the rest of the bunch (“Hang ‘Em All High,” “Hard Times”), the clear highlight is the band’s fusion of ska classics “007” by Desmond Dekker and “A Message to You, Rudy,” the latter made popular by the Specials. With the flickering of the album’s sole steady upstroke rhythm, the Strawberry Blondes masterfully combine the hornline of what they label “Rudi” with the chorus of “007” before launching into the chorus of “A Message to You, Rudy.”

The biggest and most distracting detractor in Fight Back is song lengths that border on ridiculous. Melodic street punk songs on the side of four to four-and-a-half minutes is just excessive, and happens to occur several times on the record, with the bulk surpassing three minutes. Some bands can pull it off, but for the Strawberry Blondes, it just starts getting repetitive after a while.

ADHD complaints aside, the Strawberry Blondes have amassed a capable and enthusiastic collection of punk rock jams on Fight Back. While they could use a bit more diversity, they clearly know what they’re doing and why on the 15 tracks that populate this disc.

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