Review: Victor Stranges “Hello Me To You”
Victor Stranges “Hello Me To You”
Australia has given the music world AC/DC, Icehouse, Men At Work, Midnight Oil, Crowded House, and INXS amongst others. If there is any justice in the world, Victor Stranges will be amongst those great names in terms of recognition and accomplishment. Stranges’s 2009 album Hello Me To You is a piece of Pop/Rock near-perfection. There’s very little here that Stranges doesn’t do well; a striking accomplishment considering that the album is almost entirely written, produced, and performed by himself. The result of his efforts is a terrific musical showcase that maintains its consistency while never sounding dull or as if the songs are blending into one.
The first thing the average music listener will notice is that Stranges sounds very much like Elvis Costello; the vocal similarity is uncanny in particular. To say the music and lyrics is Costello-like is also warranted, but instead of being a sound-alike, Stranges is to Costello as Bob Seger is to Bruce Springsteen; there are similarities, but there are differences enough to where Stranges can settle into his own identity. Still, Costello is a good baseline for determining how much you’d enjoy Stranges’s music since he doesn’t reinvent Pop/Rock music in anyway here; he just takes his own music and plays the hell out of it.
The opening track, “Morning Star” really sets the mood with is organ-esque keyboards, doo-doo chorus, hand clapping and tight guitar solo. The lyrics are a cut above the average fare as well, “So let’s reverse this reckoning/’cause eternity is beckoning.” The slightly quirky title track is the best indicator of Stranges’s potential and ability as a musician. This song is firing on all cylinders; the crisp, rattling drums, the peppy pacing, and the infectious chorus that borders on non-sensical while being a witty comment on meeting someone who really overwhelms you. The song also throws in one of the best lines to be put down on record, “I thought you liked The Replacements/But Bon Jovi was what you meant…”
Stranges’s songs either tend to revolve around the guitar, or the piano. While the guitar tracks tend to be the more driving songs, the piano ones can be bouncy like, “When The Morning Comes”, or ballads like “Nineteen Years Ago.” The latter of these is the most emotional song of the 11 tracks here. The subject matter of loss, grief, and remembrance is highlighted by the use of mostly piano and voice with some bass and a few keyboard effects building up at the end. The imagery contained in lines like, “Sitting in the car with the radio/Crying to an AM Station/That song was my salvation…” is magnified exponentially by Stranges’s voice. Emotionally, the song hits with the weight of something like James Taylor’s “Fire And Rain”; the pain comes through so clearly as the song reminds us all that the weight of such losses…and the memories of what made someone so special, can remain through the years.
The one fault that befalls some of the songs is that they run for a bit longer than they should. “Not That Bad At All” and “You Can’t Buy Happiness” are good songs that make their point, but then continue to make it when it’s no longer really necessary. All things considered though, this is but a mild quibble amongst a multitude of strengths that the album as a whole exhibits. To the positive, little things like the upbeat “Tonight” that comes joyfully near the closing, and the great little guitar solo on “Restoration Blues” are like buried gems that when unearthed, make the album such a joy to listen to.
Hello Me To You is a fantastic outing in Pop/Rock that leaves little left to be desired once the final song comes to a close. Victor Stranges reveals himself to be quite multi-talented as well with his performance on all the instruments being solid too great. Though Stranges did receive some help from Matt Swanton, by and large, this is Stranges’s effort, and it’s a labor of love that radiates character and talent. Elvis Costello comparisons will still be inevitable, but there’s no doubt that Hello Me To You is one of the best examples of how enjoyable and well done Pop/Rock can be.
Reviewed By Heath Andrews