With a record title like Dirty Girl and some rather saucy sleeve art, one could be forgiven for half expecting some '80s-esque sleaze rock. In fact, the listener could even be forgiven for expecting some dumb fun, based on first impressions alone. The truth, however, is that the Strange is less White Lion and more — sigh — White Stripes. That's a tough fact to face, because the truth is the last habit that Detroiters need to slip back into right now is comparing a mildly garage-ish band from the D with Jack & Meg, which was often the case at the beginning of the millennium.
Nevertheless, the Strange is a two-piece unit, consisting of Brent Mckay on vocals and guitar, and Erik Nordin on vocals, drums and piano. That can't be denied. There's also a section in the opening song, "Pass Me By," where they sound almost like a White Stripes tribute band. But let's not belabor the point. Because the Strange's main problem is that, even when the band doesn't sound like Jack White's hibernating duo, it sounds like somebody else. The Strange guys are three albums into their career, and they have yet to carve out a unique sound of their own.
Having said all of that, though, Dirty Girl is an immensely enjoyable album. That the vocals are shared between Mckay and Nordin means that there's a dynamism to the songs that verges on glorious schizophrenia. For example, "Bar Seven" is a balls-out garage rocker, while the next track, "Candy," is a piano-led, sweet ditty in layers of sound that befits its title. "A While," finds the band nodding at Radiohead. So, yes, eclecticism's a key here.
The boys certainly sound like they're having fun with Dirty Girl. They truly are fine musicians and the songs, derivative or not, are for the most part well-written. If they could just settle on their own sound, then they'd be flying.
The Strange's CD release party is Friday, July 10, at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700.
Brett Callwood writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.