Album Review: Strangers – EP3

By on Friday, 11th November 2011 at 12:00 pm

Hurts should be seriously concerned, because there is a new band in town that looks like they’re directly encroaching territory Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson already laid claim to with their 2010 debut ‘Happiness’, a move that have made them huge across Europe. Enter Strangers, founded by David Maddox-Jones, formerly of the Northampton band the Departure. So what do Strangers sound like? I’d describe it as bombastic yet dark pop mixed with the dance sensibility of Monarchy. On their side are richly programmed synths, a fun dance beat that is sure to get bodies bumping and a sexy lead male vocal from Maddox-Jones. I’m also seeing the words ‘New Romantics’ being thrown around when this band comes up in conversation, but I think I’ll leave it up to my first live encounter with them to decide if this label fits. (And it turns out if you’re in London, you can see them play Electricity Showrooms as part of an Amazing Radio bill on the 24th of November.)

Let’s switch gears now to examine more closely their third EP named, rather unimaginatively, ‘EP3’. (And yes, if you are wondering, there were two EPs prior to this, named ‘EP1’ and ‘EP2’. Are they trying to be funny? And I used to call Adele lazy for naming her albums ’19’ and ’21’ for the age at which she wrote the songs appearing on them…) The lead track, ‘Promises’ (video of clips cut and pasted together below), features Laura Smiles duetting with Maddox-Jones, interestingly in harmony even though the song obviously is about a completely inharmonious relationship. The chorus beckons “why won’t you need me, like I needed you / why won’t you love me, like I want you to / all your words are meaningless” while synths crash darkly, as if in deference to this broken bond.


Second track ‘Because I’m Human’ is probably what Morrissey would have sounded like in the ’80s if he told Johnny Marr to get a Casio and that the Smiths were going to be making dance music. There is imagery of a ‘mask’ that the protagonist hides behind because he “can’t take this” – surely stress is something anyone can relate to, as the pressures of daily life build and snowball into something insurmountable. Maddox-Jones asks “is it because I’m human? / is it because I can do better? / you know I’m not sure I can change” in the chorus, further cementing the band’s song subject matter firmly down on earth. A lot of synth-driven dance music is purposely escapist: this is taking something uncomfortable and putting it in your face, granted with slick synth programming.

After two brilliant songs, EP closer ‘Sweet Nothing’ is a bit of a let down. Down tempo compared to the songs before it, I can hear Paul Lester’s comparison of the group’s sound with Elton John clearly in the front half of this song. Beat-wise and lyrically, it is lacklustre put up against either ‘Promises’ or ‘Because I’m Human’, but what was it that Meatloaf said? Oh yeah: “two out of three ain’t bad.”


Strangers’ ‘EP3’ will be released on the 28th of November through Stranger Sounds.

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