For an album as strongly constructed and accomplished as “Victoria!” from US band The Downtown Struts, it is disappointing it is unable to ignite anything more than occasional flickers of lingering passion towards it. It is a mystery as the songs within its bristling frame easily command toes into action and offer an infection far stronger than most other melodic punk bands. However, “Victoria!” is lacking in maybe the most important department, a trigger to fire up passion. Intermittently, it does manage to induce more than a lick of flame to ignite the heart but overall it is a definitely enjoyable and eager to please but ultimately an unsatisfying release.
Coming off their well received and impressive debut EP “Sail The Seas Dry,” the album carries on in much the same vein which may be part of the problem. Its familiarity merely feeding expectations rather than reaching beyond their grasp. Melodically, the band hits the mark with thoughtful writing and realisation whilst the songs bring but lacking the provocative mischief of a Rancid or Flogging Molly or the snarl and bite of a Dropkick Murphys or Social Distortion. The Downtown Struts do not, on this album, have the tools to ignite a riot in thought and emotion, not even a slight disagreement to be honest, making them a band at the moment full of promise but just a good listen before moving on.
To be fair though at times “Victoria!” does light the fuse to that promise to give food for thought though these moments top and tail the album rather than veining the whole release. The first two songs bring the album into an impressive view. The first ‘Prologue’, is a stomping burst of eagerness with an even tempered attitude and playful sound to draw more than intrigue. The harmonies brought by the group vocals are immediately impressive and show with the warm melodies a sure touch lacking in many other similar genre bands. Brief and to the point the song is a great start fully backed up by its successor.
‘Postcards’ slides through the ear with ease its melodic prowess greasing the way for the feisty riffs and firm rhythms. There is nothing amazingly original to the song but its heart is fresh and keen to leave a lingering mark which it is successful at. With rhythmic hand claps their nod to easy infection but is a positive addition to the song it is another treat for the senses.
Songs like the insistent ‘Tim’ and the blues dripped ‘Rocca Ave.’ try their best to reach the opening heights but there is an unavoidable deflation to the album from here on until the appearances of the outstanding ’Anchors’ and ‘Rogues,’ easily the two best songs on the album and where The Downtown Struts maintain themselves as a band to keep an eye on. ’Anchors’ has a punch and growl to it that had been previously lacking, its stirring breath drenched in attitude if not direct aggression. With twisting melodic scorches and senses rustling riffs the infectious song shows what the band is truly capable of which is more than backed up by the rioting bruiser ‘Rogues’. This track is where the band finds its ill temper to energise its muscular bulk and rifling riffs. Anthemic with its blood boiling the song is real punk rock, a boisterous and at times nasty assault which only incites pleasure.
Imagine the album as the soundtrack to the route of the Tour De France, starting in the heady heights of the mountains before taking a long unexciting ride along flat roads before one final and mighty impressive ascent with a added final easy downhill peddle to end the day. The Downtown Struts has though brought a more than decent album in “Victoria!,” the feeling is just that it could have and maybe should been so much more exciting.