26 Sep 2021

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Elmo Strauss - Album Review: Light and Dark

02 Mar 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

Elmo Strauss began his musical career on Waiheke Island with the B Squared Blues Band which he formed with Louie Bo Charles IV. Eventually they morphed into Vessel, making the Battle of the Bands final in 2012. A few years later Elmo left NZ, heading first to Europe and then to America, forming different bands and recording along the way, but now he is back in Aotearoa with his debut solo album. Recorded at home, he provided all the vocals and instruments, apart from on Rehab and Cocaine  where he is joined by ex-Vessel drummer, Alfons Peeters.

Although he says he is influenced by multiple styles, he says that whenever he hits a musical roadblock he reverts to grunge, but while that is indeed a core part of his style, this is way more than “just” that. The album contains a large amount of alternative metal, as well as plenty of dirty, blues-based rock, and I found myself thinking this often felt more like early ZZ Top than Nirvana. There is a grittiness about it, a touch of reality and refusal to confirm to what is expected, which is refreshing.

It never sounds like a solo album, but much more one where a group of long-haired guys have just plugged in and started playing. The vocals are not quite perfect, but they would jar if they did, as that would be out of keeping in music which sounds as if it were recorded live in the studio. It has that lumberjack shirt and freewheeling attitude of Rory Gallagher and Taste, but without the flamboyance and more of the grunge down tuned element. Looking at the photos on the site I am not at all surprised to see he is using Marshall amplifiers, as they have that grunt and bite which one expects from that equipment. There is no room him for posing, this is honest to goodness rock which deserves to be played in sweaty clubs, and when he brings out the slide on GART all the listener can do is sit there with an almighty grin on their face. It does also seem mighty apt that the song I am currently listening keeps telling me I need to get used to Lockdown.

This does not sound like an album from New Zealand in 2021, but something which has far more in keeping with some of the grunge bands from the Nineties combined with Creedence, Fogerty, Taste and ZZ Top from the early Seventies. This is music which is designed to breathe in a live environment, not the studio, and one can only hope he puts together a band and hits the circuit soon. There are a few times when a song is a little too repetitive, and others when the bass is slightly too high in the mix, but overall, this is an incredibly solid album which all fans of classic rock should grab and play loud.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Elmo Strauss

Elmo Strauss (Real name, Ben Martens) is a singer/songwriter from Auckland New Zealand. His previous bands include Vessel (NZ) and Props (Austin, TX).
Elmo recorded his debut album Light and Dark at his house during the Covid lockdown.

He is currently a member of Auckland band Billy and the Wolf.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Elmo Strauss


Light and Dark
Year: 2021
Type: Album

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