Just when they seemed to disappear into the crowd of countless indie bands suffering 15-minute bliss withdrawal, The Virgins released their sophomore album, Strike Gently, which is quite the contrast from their upbeat indie dance-pop debut album.
The new album was released on March 12, almost five years since The Virgins came out with their eponymous album that boasted hits like “Rich Girl.” The band has changed a lot since that first album, the only original member remaining being lead singer and guitarist Donald Cumming.
Cumming replaced his previous bandmates with some friends he had played with for fun in a country cover band, he told BlackBook. It was a natural shift for Max Kamins (bass), Xan Aird (guitar) and John Eatherly (drums) to join the band after that.
The Virgins even switched record labels, too, signing with Cult Records, The Strokes’s frontman Julian Casablancas’ new label, after having previously signed with Atlantic Records for their debut. Strike Gently is also Cult Records’s first release.
For the new album, The Virgins ditched the neo-disco pop rock melodies that made them popular. The new record is surprisingly more mellow and down tempo from its predecessor with more folk sounds with a tint of country grit and soul.
All the songs were recorded in one live room––quite the difference from the previous album.
“There’s instruments bleeding on pretty much every track,” Cumming said in a video posted to the band’s website. “There’s vocals bleeding on all of it and that was just a fun way to make a record that I’ve never done before.”
“Flashbacks, Memories, and Dreams,” the first single off Strike Gently, differs from the rest of the tracks and could have perfectly fit on 2008’s The Virgins with its disco-pop, dance-worthy and staccato guitar riffs. The single is one of the album’s highlights, along with “Prima Materia,” “Impressions of You” and “Amelia.”
“Prima Materia” is a gem on Strike Gently, a track that keeps The Virgins’s former beloved sound and upbeat rhythms while introducing that laid back folk coolness that is more prominent on tracks like “The Beggar.”
“Figure On the Ice” and “What Good Is Moonlight” fail to deliver, the former so mellow it could put you to sleep. The ’80s hair metal guitar riffs of “What Good Is Moonlight” are jarring compared to lo-fi tracks like “Blue Rose Tattoo,” a sweet folk ballad.
Strike Gently isn’t perfect. It fails to excite the way The Virgins did. What Strike Gently does do well is show progression. The new folk sound is refreshing, just not fully realized yet. It’s the kind of record perfect for a road trip for those top-down rides across the country. At the end of it all, The Virgins are back, and that’s something everyone should be happy about.
Critic’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Jessica Keesee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org