Strawberry Blondes - Fight Back
One glance at the album cover will give everyone the answer to what Strawberry Blondes are looking to Fight Back against with their second album. From political correctness and homophobia to racism and conformity, no social issue is left unturned. If the band could craft a track and a riff based around the outrage of fortnightly refuse collections, one assumes that they would start throwing the king-fu shapes against that as well.
The album gets off to a bold and blistering start with the double bill of ‘Revolution Radio’ and ‘Fight Back’; bold because the same central riff is on both tracks and blistering because that particular riff is the kind that pummels its way into your head from the first note and doesn’t leave until long after the last rendition has finished. ‘Fight Back’ is the stronger of the two tracks and you almost wish that ‘Revolution Radio’ was demoted to a minute-long album opening rather than a track on its own; it threatens to detract from the power of ‘Fight Back’ which is the kind of track that could start a brawl between Buddhist Monks and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Unfortunately the rest of the album fails to scale such heights again and there are very few worthy attempts along the way. ‘No Way Out’ contains the only other discernibly brilliant riff of the album with lead singer Mickie Stabbs’ vocals perfectly fitting the powerful chorus as he sneers “no future, no fun / keep fighting but there’s no way out”. ‘RCH Punx’ repeats the trick of the first two tracks by containing the same central riff as ‘No Way Out’. It’s not note-perfect as the previous riff - and is in a different key - but the similarities are so clear that you’ll think you’ve just listened to a six-minute track. Luckily, this confidence again just about pays off with ‘RCH Punx’ being a fast, frenetic and defiant track with Stabbs proclaiming that “you’ll never take the hooligan out of me”.
However, while not being an issue with the tracks that blatantly attempt it, they have the unfortunate side effect of highlighting a major issue with the album: repetition. While there is no other attempt at a direct repeat of riffs elsewhere on the album, the heavier tracks of the album tend to follow such a similar blueprint that they could almost be interchangeable lyrically. It doesn’t help that a fair few of the tracks also have the band give a big ‘frick you’ (to use the proper word as many times as needed would be to make this review x-rated), or a related form, to a particular person or issue who has definitely annoyed them such as in ‘Out Of Luck’.
When the band do try to change things up, with both guest vocal appearances and the odd slower track, none of the attempts work at all. The slower pace brutally showcases the weakness of Stabbs’ vocals when not sneering away, especially so with the opening of ‘Las Brigadas Internationales’ which otherwise turns into a passable track reminiscent of songs played at an Irish wake, which would also be familiar to anyone who’s seen The Wire. The ska-infused ‘Manners And Respect’ featuring King Django is just painful as it just sounds so out of place with the heavy, fast punk that forms the majority of the album. ‘Goodbye Inspiration’ featuring Joey LaRocco is a lot better with a catchy chorus but the guest vocals just seem layered in as a gimmick because the track would work perfectly well with just Strawberry Blondes playing it.
A final over-riding issue here is that anyone looking here for a idiot’s guide to social revolution are in the wrong place. There’s no doubt that the issues alluded to on the album cover are here; it’s just there’s a complete lack of fighting back to be found. In fact with the band generally 'not giving a frick’ about the issues on a few of the tracks, such as on ‘Social Control’, the overwhelming theme you get from this album is apathy. The problem for Strawberry Blondes is that this also applies to the overall feeling that most listeners would get from this album as well.