Downtown Struts

Hope You're Dope EP

Written by: PP on 10/12/2014 18:49:40

Downtown Struts' debut album "Victoria!" was a true gem hiding in plain sight. Opening sequences of the record suggested it to be good, but repeated listens earned it the #6 spot at my best of 2012 list amongst tough competition in a fantastic music year. It successfully blended together The Gaslight Anthem-esque American rock song with Midwestern punk ethos primarily in the form of gnarly vocals and basement style sing alongs, resulting in an anthemic expression that begun winning folks over all across the planet.

For their next work on "Hope You're Dope" EP, they've executed a rather radical evolution as a band, all but dropping the punk influence to remove the grit and roughened edge from their sound altogether in favour of a more polished sound. It sounds totally different when the vocals are no longer gravelly, and the guitar distortion has been exchanged for more soothing licks, so it certainly takes some getting used to by older fans. Fortunately, the band's songwriting talent has not been lost in the process, so you have grower tracks like "Bipolar" truly exploring a larger and more spacious soundscape, while still retaining the soft melodies and varied vocals that made this band great in the first place. Their passion might not manifest itself through gravelly screams no longer, but don't tell me that a song like "Abused" doesn't suggest the band isn't playing with their hearts on their sleeve. The amount of soul that goes to those repeated words in the chorus melody are impossible to resist.

The EP highlight is arguably "Italian Homes", which so perfectly demonstrates the more mature songwriting that the band has evolved to. Opening with mid-tempo, soft guitars, the amount of texture added by the instrumentation on top of the relatively high pitch clean vocals creates a melody structure that suggests Downtown Struts are ready for a much bigger audience than they are currently playing against. With this in mind, the change in sound starts to make sense and remind you of the way The Gaslight Anthem also progressed from album to album into their stadium sized sound of the newer albums, for better or worse. For now, Downtown Struts are still in the solid phase, even if my personal preference was the vibrant gravelly vocals on "Victoria!" over the more spacious and polished surroundings of "Hope You're Dope" EP.

Download: Bipolar, Italian Homes
For the fans of: The Weakerthans, The Gaslight Anthem, The Clash, Pure Love
Listen: Facebook

Release date 18.11.2014
Pirates Press

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