Sometimes I’m presented with music that’s of a rather bizarre nature, that defies the norm… and I can certainly say that about Mr. Strange! Dubbing themselves as an ‘Alternative Electro-rock’ group, the Isle of Wight based trio have released five albums over the course of their career. Here, they have compiled what they feel is their strongest work, as a ‘best of’ collection of songs, aptly named WTF?! This has fan-favourites, some staples and even a couple of interesting covers, some of which have been given the remaster treatment to spruce them up.
When it comes to having a recognisable sound, they’ve pretty much nailed it!
The record certainly lives up to it’s namesake, having a crazy, wacky vibe throughout. There’s also plenty of Gothic horror themes to give it an extra spooky feel, at times sounding a bit sinister. Although it doesn’t stray too far into the darkness, and even with there being so many different styles and genre influences present on the record, it remains cohesive. Basically, if I were to walk into a club and one of these songs were blasting through the speakers, I’d be able to tell it was a Mr. Strange track right off the bat. When it comes to having a recognisable sound, they’ve pretty much nailed it!
“Wonderful World of Weird” kicks off with a radio transmission that shows that their tongues are clearly in their cheeks. This transitions into what only can be described as the theme to a messed up Saturday morning cartoon show, with twisted undertones. This perfectly sets the zany tone that continues throughout the album. We are then presented with the spooky “Carousel”, that boasts catchy riffs, also having a disco feel to it, then “Disco Bitch” brings in razor-sharp electro, accompanied by gritty guitar. The latter is a bit slow and sexy sounding, as if Marilyn Manson had collaborated with Mindless Self Indulgence. Already, three tracks in, and it feels genre-defying, but if that wasn’t enough, “Brain Dead Boogie” throws in some swing inspired elements, and “Clockwork Man” has sombre violin, turning into a dominant piano tune, as if Tim Burton had infiltrated the recording studio at some point.
There’s honestly a ton of stuff going on within this record, so much that it’s hard to know where to start! It just goes to show how well the band can take ideas and mould them into their own. Tracks such as “I like Girls…”, “My Addiction” and “Deviant Ritual” veer more towards electro territory. The first of these stands out because of it’s presentation, as if it were an industrial pop-tune created in the 80’s, and the latter sounds like a mash-up of videogame music and EBM. We get more blues style themes in songs like “Twisted Family” and “Exile”, including slight satanic themes, reaching sleazy heights in the particularly electronic “Sodom Nights (feat. Bridget Gray)”. “Psycho Surfing a Go-Go!” has a real wild, old school surfing vibe too (if the title didn’t make that obvious enough.) The cover of Pet Shop Boy’s “It’s a Sin” is very notable, giving the song a much more moody feel, which is aided by it’s slower tempo. There’s also a bizarre cover of Spin Me Round, made famous by Dead or Alive, although it’s been combined with another one of Mr. Strange’s previous tracks, transforming it into “Spin Me Round / Do It Like Pete Burns”. It’s odd, but the choice works quite well, and the transition is seamless, as well as hard-hitting. It’s only during closer “There’s Consequences” where the album slows down a bit. 8-bit melodies blend into orchestral instruments, taking on a reflective mood, as if travelling through space. It’s quite hypnotic.
…it doesn’t let up with it’s outlandish cartoonish themes, having a real sense of character.
There’s a ton more the album has to offer too, such as the bulky riffs of “Lizard Man 3.0”, the sea of electronic rhythms in “Villain” and the eccentric goodness that is “Music Box (redux)”, sounding as if the carnival is in town. What’s more impressive is that, for the duration of the record, it doesn’t let up with it’s outlandish cartoonish themes, having a real sense of character.
WTF is absolutely bonkers, completely off-the-wall and incredibly joyous! It may be a long listen in one sitting, totalling at a mammoth run-time of over 1 hour 30 minutes, but I found myself enticed by it, with a smile on my face from start to finish. It’s nice to have a band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, and genuinely has some fun with their music. It’s something that doesn’t happen enough in music, or more often than not, is difficult to translate well sonically. However, Mr. Strange have very much achieved a great mood here. I think the last time I ever heard anything that had this kind of atmosphere was with the last Doctor Steel album, and that was all the way back in 2006! This album is fantastic to listen to, it’s chock-full of finely constructed tracks that are catchy as hell, all whilst not being afraid to spread a bit of insanity.
Final Verdict: A fine collection of alternative electro-rock tracks that venture into dark territory, but are also wacky fun. A joy to listen to, with a real sense of character, and surprisingly uplifting at times!