It takes a lot of skill and commitment to deliver a high-energy glam rock show without seeming over the top, but The Struts pull it off so flawlessly it’s like part of their anatomy. From the way all four members lay into each and every endlessly catchy song, to the way frontman Luke Spiller’s perfectly tailored raiments swish and shift with him as he glides across the stage, The Struts are a machine so well-oiled you’d swear they were born to do exactly this.
We overheard another concertgoer having heated dialogue about it, echoing our own sentiments: “This guy! This guy!” he exclaimed, “He’s like Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger rolled into one!” It’s true, and he can command an audience just as well. Not everyone can pull off a successful call and response session; or get a sweaty, sardine-packed crowd to jump and clap along. But last night’s fans were emboldened.
I used to talk in my articles about how Cleveland crowds are stoic and not easily impressed. Most bands are lucky to get a half-hearted golf clap after their songs. But not Struts fans. Oh no. These fans screamed, yelled, cheered, sang along at the tops of their lungs, raised their hands in the air, and gave back every ounce of energy the band put out to us.
The Struts took notice, too, declaring it their best Cleveland show to-date. Even new songs off their forthcoming album got the same warm welcome. “Is it good? Or is it shit?” Luke asked. I assure you, it’s every bit as good as anything off Everybody Wants. I certainly can’t wait to hear the rest of the album, and can’t wait to see them again.
As we approach the end of fall and brace ourselves for another brutal snowbelt winter, watching trees lose their clothes a little more each day, listening to a band called Last Leaves just seems right. I put it on and am immediately transported to warmer, sunnier days. It may not be T-shirt weather anymore, but on my radio it’s close enough.
As someone with every Lucksmiths album shuffling daily on my iPod, continuously pumping perfect pop song after perfect pop song through humble speakers, I was stoked when Last Leaves formed to reunite guitarists Marty Donald and Louis Richter with bassist Mark Monnone. Drummer Noah Symons (Great Earthquake) completes the quartet. Their debut album Other Towns Than Ours picks up right where the Lucksmiths left off.
From the first moment of the first song, our boys are back, painting stories with warm witty words and gentle instruments like only they can. It all sounds so familiar. Their particular genius is alive and well throughout the entire release.
With the third song, The Nights You Drove Me Home, I’m back in high school on Sunday nights, in the passenger seat of my first love’s orange Chevy Vega. For the first time in years, I’m remembering those drives from one end of town to the other, recalling his jokes and how all we used to do was laugh.
Most songs on the album are looking back, many on past loves, as the band’s characteristic harmonies on track six ask, “The world we had/where did it go?” This may as well be a question for nearly every song on the album.
Songwriter Marty Donald spoke with us about this collection of songs, some of which were written while the Lucksmiths were still together, and others after Last Leaves formed.
“I didn’t stop writing songs when The Lucksmiths finished up,” he explains. “I’ve been doing it too long to even consider that, I guess. But I wanted to find new things to explore with my writing, without that change feeling forced. I’ve always been a fairly painstaking writer anyway, so I knew that would take a while. I also moved to the hills outside Melbourne around this time; a sense of place has always been fairly central to my writing, and it took a while for the change of scenery to work its way into my songs. Again, though, I wanted this to happen naturally rather than be contrived at all.”
“When it came time to do something with the songs I had, I didn’t have to give too much thought to working with Mark and Louis again,” Marty continues. “The sort of friendship and musical understanding we’d developed over the years shouldn’t be given away lightly! But I also thought it would be good for us to introduce something different into the equation. Noah was a friend I’d made in the hills, whose drumming is incredible and completely distinctive; from the first rehearsal we all had together, everything clicked beautifully.”
“When we first started working together on the songs I had, though, some worked and some didn’t,” Marty continues. “It took us a while to understand ourselves, I guess — for some sort of direction to suggest itself. Once it did — after we’d played a few shows — I began to find the writing process much easier. Having a better idea of how the songs would end up sounding was definitely helpful! A few of my favorite songs from the record — The World We Had and Third Thoughts for example — are from this slightly more recent period.”