'Spitting Image' doesn't just signal the latest step in The Strypes' evolution, but a genuine coming of age as a band.
Shaking loose fussy parental overtones, perhaps a nod to the undue label influence on past albums, there is a defiant certainty in the direction in which the band have embarked on this, their third record.
Pete, Josh, Ross and Evan (the latter two pictured) breeze right into business with a biting chorus on the album's opening track. Between chunky chords, razor-sharp riffing and snapping snare, they chime on chorus: Behind closed doors decisions are made, you never know what goes on!
It's not an album of score-settling, although at times it feels as if they are playing with something to prove. Recording in relative seclusion, and latterly ensconcing themselves among friends has delivered a refreshed, independent, and ultimately more confident image of the band.
The strained metaphors of 'Little Victories' have been discarded, substituted now with precisely delivered vocals, a lesson gleaned and honed from the beautifully composed and oft-overlooked mid-2000's classic 'Love Travels at Illegal Speeds' (2006) by Blur's Graham Coxon.
The fingerprints of the likes of long-time mentor, Squeeze's Chris Difford are still evident.On '(I need a break from) Holidays' one can be forgiven from initially dreaming of 'Up the Junction'. That is until the poise is exuberantly broken-up, and develops into a rattling consignment of post-punk loveliness.
'Holidays' is another major move for the band in that it marks the first track penned by Evan and Pete, but the collaboration is only complete with Ross on piano and Josh's immaculate fret shredding.
More than mere long-forgotten garage-rock revivalists, the band carry early momentum and nu-wave/ post-punk influence through 'Grin and Bear It', onto 'Easy Riding', before landing with 'Great Expectations'.
This track has a Boomtown Rats veneer, but The Strypes make it their own thanks to the sheer joy exuding from it. A hit of brass and the delicate touch of producer Ethan Johns whose talent lies in maximising on musicians' idiosyncrasies makes 'Great Expectations' a stand-out track, which will sit comfortably on any summer playlist. Those old routines don't go too far, those old routines ain't what we are.
The nudge of an expert producer, and a band confident both in his and their abilities to deliver are again clear to hear in the traditional second-half of the album. From the sultry clinging bass on 'Garden of Eden' to the zipping harmonica opening of 'Different Kind of Tension', there is a rawness now to The Strypes who have evidently honed their skills both individually and collectively. With musicianship still at the heart of it all, songs are now more focussed and assured - another indicator of how far they have come on 'Spitting Image'.
A Rolling Stones-esque 'Get It Over Quickly' is done in less than three-minutes, spiking every sense before 'Turnin My Back' sucker-punches with riffing reminiscent to the Only Ones' 'Another Girl Another Planet'.
An ode of sorts in 'Mama Give Me Order' slows matters down before the inevitable concluding crescendo, 'Oh Cruel World', sent by express post and delivered with aplomb.