Pop-punk, Americana infused rock 'n' roll isn't really something I'd usually find myself listening to, but occasionally it's quite nice to break free of the norm and invest your time in something a little different. Downtown Struts are one such investment, and it was very much time well spent. Riding the coattails of bands such as Against Me!, The Gaslight Anthem and the most important chap of all, The Boss - or Bruce Springsteen to his mum - this Chicago based band tow a nice line in fun-filled anthems and real narrative. Their songs are cut from the road and Downtown Struts are a group that spend much of their time touring, going from city to city and seeing their land for all it is. Victoria! takes in such a story and the songs are built around the experiences of the band whilst playing as many shows and events as possible. Constant touring is a huge undertaking and the band don't portray it as anything else but difficult, but it's clear that they know it's important and that they wouldn't be the band they are today without such hardship.
Vocals are nicely on the rough around the edges side, lending Victoria! a gruffness that comes with reality whilst continuing to be sweetly uplifting and massively melodic at all times. First track proper "Postcards" has a tone of the classic songs of times past, and this theme rolls through the record as a whole, giving it an almost timeless feel - you could go back to it a five years, ten even and still feel what you felt the first time you heard it. Victoria! is a record that evokes feelings of homesickness, joy, sadness and the importance of family and sticking together and whilst it all sounds very saccharine on paper, but Downtown Struts manage to stay on the side of truth.
Soft lines counter larger sections, hand claps sit with gang vocals and Downtown Struts show that there's plenty of room for them on the stages of America and indeed the rest of the world. Their music that is obviously influenced by the peers mentioned earlier, but this quintet are quite ready for the next step with Victoria! and it's going to be exciting to see what the road takes them next.
7.5 / 10
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