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Album Review: Atom Bomb by The Strike

Atom Bomb shows The Strike improving on their signature sound in fun, inventive ways.

By Zach Collier

You simply don’t find bands like The Strike every day. A 6-piece band (originally a whopping 9), The Strike have made a name for themselves nationally for their throwback sound – one that incorporates 80’s arena rock, funk, Motown soul, and jazz influences into one fresh, energetic whole. Their first EP, We Are The Strike Volume 1, featured the bombastic big band piece, “Robbing Me Blind,” a song they performed as openers for Kelly Clarkson and Carly Rae Jepsen at the Stadium of Fire amidst spontaneous audience exclamations like “I like them already” and “They might make it real big!” [1] Their second EP, 2014’s We Are The Strike saw them expanding their tastes, adding rap to “Get Lost With Me,” live strings to the moving “Wrapped Up In You,” and Bruno Mars-y touches to “One Night Of You.”

Atom Bomb, however, does more than expand their musical palate. Atom Bomb seals the deal, putting The Strike in a league of their own – one that immaculately toes the line between familiar and infectiously fresh. This is due in large part to the golden voice of lead singer Chris Crabb – one whose voice sounds like a delicious musical smoothie that is equal parts Adam Levine and Michael Bublé. His quirky, eccentric, smooth-talking stage persona make him somewhat of an enigma.

But let’s not forget the rest of the band. Everyone in the group is a musician of the highest caliber. One need only listen to guitarist Brady Bills’ solo or the horn work from Myles Lawrence, Marcus Anderson, and Austie Robinson on the title track to be convinced of that. Seriously. The talent here is out of control.

Brady Bills (left) and Austie Robinson (right).

“Atom Bomb” gets the album off to a roaring start. The horn section opens the album, daring you to get familiar with their trademark sound. Subtle harmonies embellish Crabb’s megaphone-effected vocals, making them lush and full in the chorus. There are some excellent production choices in this song, like the subtle echo on Crabb’s vocals that enters at 1:22, half way through the second verse. 2:57 to the end finds The Strike doing what they do best – jamming and riffing until they reach an ecstatic climax. The twists, turns, stops (3:26 is brilliant!), horn bends, and masterful drum work from Matt Millington keep you guessing the whole time. It’s a crazy ride. There’s a reason this song was featured on Dancing With The Stars and a viral ad for Nordic Track. This song needs to reach the masses.

“Warriors” is very much like “Atom Bomb.” Anthemic, loud, and fun. The gang shouts throughout the verses are one of the coolest things you’ll hear out of Provo. The interplay between the straightforward gang shouts and Crabb’s strong, embellished vocals are integral to the song structure – a great device that they use to its full potential. The build from 2:36-2:47 showcases the masterful compositional skills extant in the group. It accomplishes more in 10 seconds than I could ever hope to write in a lifetime.

Lead singer Chris Crabb.

“Shame” finds The Strike at their most brash. It’s fun to hear horns on a rock song. The organ and the horns are able to create a pleasant, punchy dissonance that grows on you with repeat listens. It’s this punchy, organic dissonance that really makes “Shame” worthwhile. The song simply would not work without them.

Sadly, “99” is an example of what happens when you remove the secret ingredient from The Strike recipe. “99” is a fun song. The guitar tones are reminiscent of those found in Boston’s far more subdued, “More Than A Feeling.” The lyrics about reminiscing on past times are pleasant and enjoyable despite being thematically cliché. It’s not a bad song by any means, but it just doesn’t do it for me. As much as I love Crabb’s voice and The Strike’s guitar work, I don’t listen to a record from The Strike because I enjoy their throwback rock stylings. I listen to The Strike because the horns are so freaking good – and nobody has that. Nobody. That’s their most distinguishing trait. The Strike is nothing without their horn section, and “99” feels like anyone could have written and performed it.

“Collect Yourself” is so retro it’s ridiculous. It’s able to capture and replicate the sound of an era just as well as, if not better than, R. Kelly and K. Michelle’s “Love Is.” It’s a wonderful blend of Marvin Gaye vocal stylings and Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band’s “Express Yourself.” It even makes a lyrical reference to that song. This song proves The Strike is equally as good as Fitz and the Tantrums and St. Paul and the Broken Bones in terms of crafting a polished, retro sound. “First Love Song” is very much in the same style as “Collect Yourself.” The background vocals are absolutely gorgeous in the chorus. It’s great.

To conclude, this is an album you need to hear. You won’t find music of this caliber being made elsewhere in Provo. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything like it in the world. Very few groups are making music in this style, and even fewer are doing it well. The Strike is a beautiful rarity. They’ve created a wealth of music that has turned me into a lifelong Strike fan.

Listen to Atom Bomb on Bandcamp here. Don’t miss the chance to see The Strike perform with Ryan Innes and Mimi Knowles at Velour Live Music Gallery on February 13th. Follow them on Twitter (@wearethestrike) and like them on Facebook at facebook.com/wearethestrike. You can hear the title track from the EP below.

[1] The Strike – Stadium of Fire – Robbing Me Blind. Dir. Vicbillsu. Perf. The Strike. YouTube. Vicbillsu, 6 July 2013. Web. 8 Jan. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMo4dT-YV4U&gt;.

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