The notions of what constitutes a rockstar have changed enormously over time. What was once behaviour defined by the propensity for debauchery and mayhem seems to have fully died down, now replaced by a more human portrayal relatable to the audience in front of them. Of course, there’s always going to be some trying to bring it back, though it says a lot that the Ronnie Radkes and Remington Leiths trying to bring it back often only succeed at embarrassing themselves than making any legitimate progress. It’d also be tempting to add The Struts’ Luke Spiller to that list, but his delusions of being the next Freddie Mercury are more misguided than anything else, especially when the band’s previous work has been little more than watered-down glam-rock that can occasionally muster a solid hook.
On Young & Dangerous though, it feels like, in some capacity, The Struts are aware of this; why else would they open Primadonna Like Me with the line “Don’t you know who I think I am?”, or make an entire song dedicated to Tatler Magazine if there wasn’t at least a vestige of tongues being in cheeks? And in some strange way, there’s dimension to that that actually works to the band’s advantage, putting the camp and pomp into a perspective that actually feels earned here. Couple that with the fact that there are numerous cuts that rise well above what the latest few singles offered, and Young & Dangerous is a more fun listen than initially indicated.
It certainly helps how consistently glitzy and upbeat this album is, something that at least lets The Struts channel their knack for an exceptionally sticky hook and run with it. The bug-eyed jitter of Body Talks is probably the best way to start off, built on by the disco swagger of Who Am I? and the cocky dance-rock of I Do It So Well that highlights exactly where the glam comes from in their sonic cocktail, namely the swagger of Queen at their rockiest mixed with the stately presence and glamour of Elton John. It’s perhaps most evident on Somebody New’s exhaling, symphonic swell or the quintessentially British pomp of Tatler Magazine, two tracks that really do capture the upper limit of where The Struts can take their sound, and how well they can do it at that. Of course, they don’t stick the landing all the time, which leads to the lumpy missteps of Bulletproof Baby and People, or the wishy-washy Fire (Part 1), but it’s honestly a surprise how sharp and catchy Young & Dangerous can be, honed in on by a production style that accentuates their bells and whistles in gloriously gaudy fashion.
It’s also what makes Spiller’s assertions of a wannabe rockstar work in this context, almost entirely because it’s never a secret of how over his own head he really is. He wants to be the larger-than-life rockstar, strutting down Sunset Boulevard like the most important person there on I Do It So Well, roping in those around him to the life of self-absorption on In Love With A Camera, and even holding his own in strained relationships through foppish face-turns to his own needs on Somebody New. It’s all total, flagrant overcompensation in what is effectively pretending to live up to strings of clichés that are totally out of his depth, and while that has so much potential to be totally insufferable, there’s a hefty dose of pathos on Ashes (Part 2) when it all backfires, and his pretending ultimately sees him alone once again. And it’s telling just how much he’s overshadowed by Kesha on the reworking of Body Talks, someone who can genuinely embody rockstar power and charisma, so much so that she’s able to show him up on his own track. It’s the final underline of how unconvincing Spiller is in this persona, but his clear self-awareness alongside the fact that he keeps it up so unfailingly is what makes Young & Dangerous as charming as it is.
That’s pretty much all this album has going for it, anyway. You won’t find profundity or exceptional musicianship here, but for a goodtime listen that’s incredibly easy to breeze through and, for the most part, like, Young & Dangerous is worth the time. It’s even more impressive how The Struts have managed to make such a leap in quality to get to this stage, but the results speak for themselves; they’ve doubled down on everything they were good at in the first place, and have got some perfectly entertaining glam-rock out of it.
For fans of: Queen, Elton John, The Darkness
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Young & Dangerous’ by The Struts is out now on Interscope Records.