Strength gets dark, less dirty with latest album
Isamu Jordan Correspondent2010 has been a quiet year for Strength, but Portland’s favorite sex-obsessed electro-disco trio is breaking the silence with a new album.
Four years after the Portland playboys’ self-made debut, “Ongoing Strength,” their long-awaited follow-up, “Mind-Reader,” is darker, faster and shorter than its predecessor.
“Mind-Reader” is also less sexed than “Ongoing Strength,” with fewer overtly randy references on the album. Instead, the adult wordplay is slightly slanted toward more monstrous themes. Originally, Strength set out to make a horror-dance concept album, according to a news release, but the members got distracted by lusty all-out assaults on the dance floor.
Singer Bailey Winters said he was reading a lot of monster novels during the making of “Mind-Reader.” That influence comes through the strongest on “Blood,” where Winters sings, “My body is weak, I’m out of time/ I need her blood before sunrise.”
But “Mind-Reader” is not without its arousing appeal. The album’s lead-off single, “Brandy,” replaces body lotion for brown liquor in a sensual massage session.
Instrumentally, “Mind-Reader” stays true to Strength’s signature formula, mixing disco with electro with synthy bass lines, minimalist guitars, ambient noise and dance-inducing beats, supporting Winters’ nasally Jagger-esque vocals. Adding to the mix on “Mind-Reader” is an element of punk-rock in the simple but catchy riffage on guitar.
It’s the same sound that earned Strength’s critical accolades nationwide drawing on the indie-rock retro movement for vintage electronic music. It’s a rare review that doesn’t compare Strength to the likes of Ghostland Observatory, LCD Soundsystem, or even Spokane’s own James Pants.
During peak season of the nostalgic comeback of electro in indie music, Strength is Portland’s pride and joy of the genre. The band has been getting big props in the Northwest and nationwide. While bands with a similar sound are coming as fast as they’re going, Strength continues to stand out with irresistible hooks and an equally infectious live show.
Strength is made up of Winters, John Zeigler on keys and Patrick Morris on guitar and bass, who both share drum programming duties. The three got started playing music together in a rock band while attending the California College of Arts in Oakland. After graduating they formed Strength and moved to Portland.
At the time, Winters said, audiences would stand around and watch bands but then would start dancing while a DJ was spinning records. The goal then was for Strength to be considered more like a dance record than a rock band.
Strength seems to have succeeded in doing so on “Mind-Reader” as well, as critics are begging for more.
Many reviews agree that the album’s only shortcoming is its length. The record plays more like an EP, clocking in at eight songs and 25 minutes long.