Strangers and Liars – Five Seat Concert Hall (Independent)
Strangers and Liars are a four-piece American rock band from Erie, Pennsylvania, with a list of influences that include The Beatles, The Band, J.J. Cale, Warren Zevon and Tom Petty. There are definitely a few clues to their sound amongst those names, and they themselves describe what they do as ‘original electrified music in the American tradition’.
Indeed, the result is melodic guitar pop with a suspicion of twang and an abundance of hooks. All four members, Tommy Link (vocals and guitar), Justin Anderson (lead guitar and vocals), Russ Straub (bass) and Tom Hitt (drums and vocals) are recognised writers, though on “Five Seat Concert Hall” Link takes sole songwriting credits. However, it’s apparent from the off that each musician brings far more than just talent and experience to the project. It sounds too good for that.
Produced by the band, and recorded in two studios in and around their hometown, “Five Seat Concert Hall” has been imbued with a fulsome, warm sound that draws the listener in. Without sounding much like them, I’m reminded of The Jayhawks and they way they write huge, classic pop songs without forfeiting intimacy. Strangers and Liars repeat the feat, and all ten tracks make an impression.
Of course, favourites come thick and fast; “Broken Hearts” arrives on big acoustic guitars, but before long Anderson is providing delicate electric detail and the chorus ingrains itself into the subconscious. “Don’t Play With Me” ups the vitriol and borders on dark, without ever sacrificing its pop heart, and “Along for the Ride” treads similar ground to “Kick” period INXS, but with a heap more subtlety and a bucketful of feel-good charm.