From listening to the first few seconds of “Ghosts of Germany” on Strange’s album Things in Night, it’s really hard to tell what’s going on. Guitars are swirling, vocals are warbling, drums are crashing. God only knows what’s happening, it’s such a frantic, horrific mess. But let it continue for a minute or so, and you find yourself caught up in a rather accessible pop song. “Accessible?” you say. “Pop song?” you gasp. But it’s true, amidst the whirlwind of chaos and unrestrained noise-driven fury, there are songs on this album.
Strange, in spite of what their name might imply, isn’t as strange as you’d imagine. They’re a tad noisy, a bit dark, even a little creepy. But all this aside, there really isn’t anything getting in the way of enjoying this record. Influenced by the likes of Sonic Youth, Spacemen 3 and The Birthday Party, Strange carries on a long tradition of melding deceptively tight-structured pop songs with screeching, squealing, gut-wrenching feedback. And hey, who doesn’t enjoy a little feedback now and then? I rather enjoy it, myself. But more importantly, there’s substance to back up their mind-altering experimentation. Listen to “Plant Life” and find out: these guys can rock.
But deeper into the album, more far-reaching influences find their way into Strange’s repertoire. “1001 Erotic Nights,” not the porn-funk soundtrack you’d imagine it is, recalls dubbier Bauhaus, a la “She’s in Parties” or “A Spy in the Cab.” But “Little Pram” sounds prettier by comparison, blending shoegazer-like layers of effects with a pretty intro. Eventually, however, the song gets somewhat messier and vocalist David Mueller enters the picture, sounding more like a cross between Nick Cave and Jello Biafra than Kevin Shields. “Tri-Suicide” begins with some scratchy guitar slides, though quickly transforms into a wiry post-punk track, albeit one augmented with trumpet leads. It’s easily one of the best tracks on the album, totally rockin’ and altogether unusual.
Strange ain’t that strange at all, if you ask me. But they’re pretty damn good. Their sound mixes and matches the better aspects of shoegazer, punk and goth-rock, ultimately creating a combination that, really, can’t fail. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, by any means. But they’re on the right track. And all the noise and feedback is just icing on the cake.
Sonic Youth – Sister
Bauhaus – Mask
Spacemen 3 – Perfect Prescription
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.