Stripped - Welcome To The No Covers Show!


A review of 'Welcome To The Carnival'.

 

Celebrating their 20th Anniversary the Northern Irish band Stripped release their first best of compilation with the glorious name of 'Welcome To The Carnival'.
Included within are some magnificent gems spanning their career from 1998 to 2017. The quartet (Daryl Ball, Aaron Blair, Ryan Ball and Alwyn Evans) seem to wear, with pride, their pop and rock heritage. Indeed all over you can hear a touch of Beatles, a soupçon of Nirvana, a dash of REM and a dab of Crowded House amongst other such luminaries. However these influences aren't overly in your face and intermingle with their own musical sensibilities, making for a most pleasing listen.

Onto the CD then - thirteen original tracks, in roughly chronological order, including two previously unreleased gems.

Kicking off with the poppy "There She Goes" jangly guitars and shimmering harmonies tell the simple tale of love and heartache. It also has a lovely proper ending! Something The Beatles always tried to do in early recordings. You can't do fade-outs live!

The mood slows down for the next tune. The sadly beautiful sounding "Secrets". Another tale of heartache. It seems these guys started off not very lucky in love! The lovely guitar solo in this, along with "la-la-la's", made me rather happy!

However, just when you are worrying about the future of Stripped's heart, we crash into the glory that is "Thrill Me". Wow! This is one of the most joyous songs I have ever heard! A love song full of such joy and energy! So upbeat - with its driving guitar riff, its slide guitars aplenty and an amazing bass line that bounces all over the place! Honestly I could listen to that bass sing on its own!

Keeping in that bouncy state of affairs we then get to "Love Is Gone". This is such an upbeat song with driving mandolin and a bit of harmonica! I am reminded of the energy of the "Friends" theme tune "I'll Be There For You", though with none of that clapping nonsense!

Following on from that we arrive at "Cartoon Eyes" (formerly known as "The Girl With Cartoon Eyes"). Here we hear a Nirvana-esque guitar riff tale that tells of worldly girl who will "teach you" how to be a man! Some distorted vocals to accompany the fuzzy guitar made me very pleased.

"Confusin' Susan" comes along with a few sung "Alrigh-hi-hi-hights" and a guitar riff that is SO nineties sounding to these ears! Like Susan, I am confused as to what it's all about but I enjoy the shouts, the guitar solo and an excellent drum track.

"In Space" (formerly known as "In Space (no-one hears you scream)") is another great beast. Twinkly space noises introduce a very "I Wanna Be Your Dog" guitar riff, before launching into those pop driven harmonies. Again a girl is mentioned, but the hero of this song is lost in Space! No happy reunion for him! "Hellllllooooo!!"

"Out of My Head" has our girl back again and this time being quite mean to Stripped! The start of the song has something of an early REM vibe to me. I do like the line "Well I could touch the sky, but I've never tried." Sounds like the singer is too brow beaten to care anymore. Some nicely sad harmonies finish this piece off.

Then it's bang up to date with a new track recorded this year! "She Dreams" is a lovely piece indeed! Again those harmonies are amazing. I can see this working really well live, especially where the music quietens to an almost a cappella "she dreeeeeeeams"! Before launching back into full band mode! This song more than deserves its place on this compilation! If Stripped are to do more work, then, on this evidence, I can't wait to hear it!!

Back to 2014 and the slower "Human Fireball" introduces us to a hurt individual which adds quite a sense of sadness through the verses. Again the choruses cut through this with a "Hey!" and some great "na-na-na-now's"!

Also from 2014, and also starting slower, we get to "Hanging". Some really excellent Pink Floydesque guitar motifs are sprinkled over some quite sad sentiments. The musical talents of this band really do shine through on these tracks. You certainly hear an evolution in their playing over the years.

After that quite serious and solemn girl we need something poppier and happier! Please enter "Half Century Girl"! This unreleased track from 2015 is so poppy and joyous! It has a classic structure that reminds me of many tunes but is all the more welcome for it! I found myself trying to sing along with the harmonies in the chorus! Again there is that great break down before going back into the music which would work excellent live!

Another new track (recorded thus year) is "Broken Strings". Such a poppy tune but this time we have a touch of folk added. A welcome edition to the Stripped canon. Will this be an idea of where they might head next, who knows? At least after lots of ups and downs with love over these 13 tracks we end with a possibility of positive love in the future.

So there we go! Stripped certainly deliver the goods for us. Call it indie, call it pop, call it rock or alternative. Call it what you like, but I shall settle on calling it excellent!

"Welcome To The Carnival" is available now!