Things are different this time around. With the addition of guitarist Joe Downing, Andy Bembridge has taken over synth duties for the band. This has proved to be the most direct catalyst for Speed's the Name's change in sound on their newest release, Strangers. The synthesizer and extra guitar work (as well as more vocal harmonies, and plenty of delay and reverb) have undoubtedly filled out the band's more groove-oriented sound. Speed's the Name's rhythm section doesn't seem to notice the added atmosphere; they keep things as tight as ever, with Scott McVeigh providing some of his most complex bass lines to date. The melodies and lyrics have far greater depth as well, with Ryan McNally narrating the decay of his relationships on the opening and title track of the album. The group puts it's newly found compositional chops to even greater use on the second track of Strangers, entitled "Jewels". The song starts off with a groove that one could imagine Spoon pulling off in their earlier days, while McNally presumably sings about another relationship at it's end, until the song takes a swift turn into a guitar-charged dance rock anthem, and the lyrical content seems to shift with this change in tempo. Reverb-drenched guitars soak up the tail end of the second verse, while McNally pleads, "Show me what the bottom's like", and the band kicks into another dance-rock chorus. The bridge of the song makes excellent use of the band's new textures, with brilliant guitar tones taking center stage, and proper backing from the always-power-house rhythm section of McVeigh and Andrew Thornbrough. The next track finds Bembridge's synthesizer leading the way. In fact, Ryan McNally sings practically no actual words in the third track, "Birdsongs". The only lyrics are "Bird songs, they're waiting for us at dawn". The textures created by the synth and guitars more than make up for the lack of proper lyrics, and the melody becomes so memorable as the song builds that the band gets away with resorting to harmonized "oohs" and "ohs" without it seeming like a cliché. The rest of the album is filled with rhythmic and textural delights. The combination of these two elements of Speed's the Name finds them transcending their more obvious influences in favor of ambiguity. Even when the group comes closer to some of it's more guilty 80's pop influences, the heavy thunder of the rhythm section pulls things off in another direction, while the Post-Rock and Surf Rock influenced guitar textures drag things in an entirely different way. Meanwhile, Ryan McNally acts as a far less aggressive American version of Morrissey; shedding light on some of society's more disturbing social happenings, while keeping things personal, but often not even taking a side or expressing his feelings on the matters at hand. It seems he's so unsure at times that he even asks someone to tell him how he should and should not feel. Standout Tracks: "Jewel", "Birdsong" -Review from bananastatic.com.