If you listened to Songs Of Armor And Devotion with no prior knowledge of Strung Out, you probably wouldn’t guess that the California band has been together for almost 30 years – such is the intensity and fresh energy of these 13 songs. Produced by Cameron Webb, who was behind the helm of 2009’s Agents Of The Underground, it’s a record that brims with the same ferocious fire the band had at the very start of its career when front man Jason Cruz was still a teenager, but which also demonstrates how far the California five-piece have evolved as songwriters, musicians and people.
“I don’t want to be 19 years old again,” says Cruz, “but the fact that we still have that energy, but we’re not 19 years old is a real feather in our cap. We’re older, but I’m so grateful that I still have a lot to do. I hope people hear this record, and they know that we’re not tired, that I still have ideas.”
Those ideas flow throughout this record both musically and thematically, the vulnerability and uncertainty of Cruz’s lyrics lying in stark contrast to the fierce and ferocious pummeling nature of its songs. That juxtaposition has always been present in Strung Out’s songs, but for this record, that push and pull has become the central basis and focus of this record, as his heart and thoughts struggle to make sense of the chaos of the world at large. That’s not to say this album has the answers, but in analyzing everything, it offers the listener – and Cruz himself – the various contradictory paths of life that, hopefully, can lead to some kind of truth or understanding.
“Some songs can be armor: they can repel and they can guard you,” explains Cruz. “And they can also bring you comfort and speak of love and belonging to something. To be a good and gentle person, you have to put up a little bit of armor, but that armor never works, because you’re so caring and sensitive and vulnerable, that your heart is going to be displayed on that armor anyway. There are so many thoughts and feelings in my head I think that with this album I just opened up the pen and let it go to explore the duality of having to defend and protect what’s inside, and at the same time make it available for the world.”