Sam Prekop

[a]Straw[/a]'s music is refreshingly free of minor chords and spaces where you might be inclined to insert a string section...

A weird irony, really. Straw are playing a song called 'Anthem For The Low In Self-Esteem' and yet to look at them, you wouldn't think they'd harboured a self-doubt in their lives.

There's something in the way that singer Mattie Bennett excitedly throws back his head and shamelessly brandishes that most pilloried of instruments, the flying-V guitar, that tells you this is a band supremely confident of their place in the world. Where exactly that place lies is more problematic. Certainly, this is your genuine indie pop as recent Top 40 single 'The Aeroplane Song' demonstrates, but there's a lot more showbiz in Straw's stage theatrics than you'd expect. Then again, in this crazy corporate rock world, where Robbie Williams makes the cover of NME and Belle & Sebastian get a Brit Award, maybe that's not such a jarring paradox after all.

Straw have got tunes, and happily, they are not afraid to use them. 'Movin' To California', a premature prediction of being dropped by their record company, has the bounce of the Britpop Blur and a shimmery psychedelic haze all of its own. 'Dracula Has Risen From The Grave', meanwhile, is a chirpy, Travis-esque folly, enlivened by the oddly-named Duck's chirpy keyboard flourishes.

If all of this sounds relentlessly upbeat then it's necessarily so; their only flat moment comes with their 'but seriously folks' finale 'We Don't Belong', which is a rather limp attempt at the kind of moody sweep that The Verve have made all their own. At their best, Straw's music is refreshingly free of minor chords and spaces where you might be inclined to insert a string section. Moreover there's enough intelligence at work in Bennett's barbed observations to mark them as more than a Sultans Of Ping for the 21st century.

Cock-sure maybe, but not without good reason.
7 / 10

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