In memory of The Strypes, the band that never quite was
Sure, we were all young and reckless once.
Tough business, the music business.
It is, in many ways, a machine. There are levels, structures and pitfalls to scale, negotiate and fall prey to.
And as with any well-oiled contraption, there are people in place on different tiers doing varying amounts of work and either being handsomely rewarded, moderately compensated or wholesale ignored for the burnout.
Not everybody wins, and oftentimes artists get cruelly fucked over. All in the game, as Omar Little might remark.
Which is to say that the path for any act in the music industry is not an easy one, but it can be a more accessible ride for some.
That was certainly the feeling among many - call us 'cynics' if it makes you sleep easier - when it came to the emergence of The Strypes around about the start of the decade.
The Cavan outfit arrived on a wave of "real music" hype.
An appearance on The Late Late Toy Show at the end of 2010 told you everything you needed to know; here stood a gang of terribly youthful fellas armed with a sound distinctly older than them.
A four-piece by the time debut album Snapshot landed in 2013, The Strypes would get suited and booted for Jools Holland, David Letterman and Conan O'Brien's respective far-reaching houses.
Clip via 10syncro
"How about this? Look at these guys. I say, look at these guys!" crowed Letterman in his introduction.
"Their folks are picking them up after the show," he bantered.
And how the crowd ate it up.
The obvious novelty both powered and dogged The Strypes. You either took them too seriously or regarded them as a bit of a parody.
Credit to the boys; the Letterman performance is ferocious but like most cover versions, there's something hollow underneath the surface.
You can understand why record labels and A&R executives swooped in like vultures in search of The New Arctic Monkeys and subsequently sold the hell out of them.
Yet even the most optimistic svengali saw a clear expiration date in the distance, even if the boys did not.
For them, protestations that this was no gimmick were common.
"People who actually listen to the tunes will see it for what it is and don’t pigeon hole it at all. It’s just bad journalism," guitarist Josh McClorey told Hot Press in 2015.
Drummer Evan Walsh, meanwhile, lamented that the band had been "condemned" by "more cynical members of the press."
Was it bad journalism? Was it cynical?
The 'cynical' tag says so much while saying so little.
For some, "real music" equates to four white lads with guitars. Is that not cynical?
No wonder they dig The Strypes. No wonder early champions included Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher, Elton John and Bob Geldof.
That Hot Press interview marked the second cover story with a magazine that dutifully championed them, cranking the hype machine up into overdrive at every turn.
Indeed, even the same publication's flowery eulogy for the band underlined how they "blew all the cynics away" (hey, there's that word again) and "boiled the guts of anyone who picked up a guitar."
The usual eye-rolling Almost Famous bullshit, essentially.
Strip away the gushing and you're left with a workmanlike group that managed to tick a hell of a lot of bucket list boxes as they gamely explored a different type of education.
Trading exam halls for Glastonbury, Electric Picnic and a rake of other stages around the world - who wouldn't want that?
It could never last.
Despite the miles on the road, the platforms, the positive critical notices, the commitment to putting on a show and the fans who turned out for real music, the legacy of The Strypes is that they have no legacy.
They leave behind moments - snapshots, fittingly - but little to grasp.
The unkind truth is that they never released a single song that could be recognised as great, no zeitgeist epitaph to outlive their years.
When conjuring up the sound of The Strypes in isolation, you hear their parents' record collection.
One doesn't intend to be malicious, especially not during a wake.
Upon the release of Snapshot, I wrote a scathing enough write-up that led one of the band members' mothers to publicly attack my own taste in music as if that would somehow provide a bye for the dismal subject matter on display.
For balance, my own father told me said review was "too harsh" (cheers, Dad) and someone else cursed me out in a pub smoking area for apparently not being qualified to critique 12-bar blues.
It's amazing what passion can do. I stand by the summary, even if calling the album "devoid of hope" might have been a touch severe in retrospect.
They had every chance to prove a 'cynic' like me wrong, and many will say that they did just that, that the energy and the drive and the music, appropriated or otherwise, prevailed.
To each their own.
The Strypes bow out gracefully after eight years, three albums and a hell of a long road.
In the end, and despite all they achieved, they were never quite their own thing, and it all felt like a great unshakeable albatross from the word go.
Abiding misgivings aside, I wish them well, particularly Josh McClorey, who I get the sense has an adventurous ear and I'm curious to see where that will take him.
Maybe he'll make some real music.