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  Follow Through On Your Backhand  
  The High Strung  
  Tee Pee Records  
Release Date:
  late 2003  
Reviewed by:
  Indoor Miner  

The Beatles. The Kinks. Small Faces. The Jam. The La's. Even Oasis. British bands that, despite the odd rock'n'roll cover and attempts at various soul classics, are, shall we say, "terribly British". They're also presumably big influences on The High Strung. But, whilst it makes a change from hearing Brits trying to be Jim Morrison, what's going on with these boys? They're from Detroit!

Well, there's quite a bit going on actually. Trying to follow in the footsteps of the aforementioned influences leaves you open to the possibility of sounding as limp as Cast or as crass as current NME faves The Libertines. But these guys have taken the tunesmith qualities of the '60's beat merchants, etc. and married it with a looseness more associated with American acts. And by and large they succeed.

The seven-track EP Follow Through Your Backhand, complete with a nifty tennis player cover, opens strongly with The World's Smallest Violin, one of two tracks here from 2003's These Are Good Times album. In fact, this song is perhaps The High Strung at their most fully realised. A ska-like guitar-driven verse gives way to a chorus featuring a Beatle-ish descending chord sequence, before concluding with a thrashing, piercing outro that Sonic Youth would be proud of. And the lyrics of "Can you hear the world's smallest violin playing just for you?" show an altogether more subtle approach than the rather direct "Can I put my free hand up your sweater" chat-up line they've employed in the past. Who said romance was dead!

That Is All I Want From You follows, with A Hard Days Night feel and a melody that, for all its intricacies, is strong enough to have me wake up humming it the morning after. The Beatles connection continues when that Taxman bass riff that The Jam so casually ripped off for their second UK number one, Start, makes yet another appearance on Watch It Not End. But to be honest, bass-line apart, it's not one of the more memorable songs here. Interestingly, it's one of two tracks here not written by the band.

Whatever He Wanted is much better, with a deliciously melodic bass-line and a "ba ba ba" bit that's sure to appeal to the Julian Cope fan in me. Likewise Turned It Away has a truly fab chorus that brings to mind The Beatles' more psychedelic moments. You can almost imagine the singer thinking he's the walrus!

Robot, the other cover version here, has an early Oasis feel, not just musically -- think Cigarettes & Alcohol without the Get It On (Bang A Gong) riff, but with it's almost nonsensical Supersonic-like lyrics. It's definitely the more successful of the two covers. It also gains extra points for some Television-like moments, and the delightfully shambolic guitar solo at the close, too.

The final track, It's On, is an absolute corker. With its Lennon-flavoured vocals, a classic tune slightly reminiscent of You've Got To Hide Your Love Away and a telling "Your face gave you away" line, you've got a track as good as virtually anything I've heard from a guitar act these past few months. And since It's On, like The World's Smallest Violin, is from their most recent album, it bodes well for The High Strung's future. So don't be fooled by the lo-fi sounding mp3's on their website that make you think that the High Strung are operating in The Gossip country, these boys know how to fill the speakers. They might never sell as many records as their influences, but I've got a sneaky feeling there's a lot more to come here.

Related Links:

These Are Good Times, a previous album from The High Strung.
The High Strung in concert in February of 04.


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