Following in the footsteps of Nouvelle Vague and Hayseed Dixie, German trio the Baseballs proved that the concept of the covers band needn't always be confined to weddings and bar mitzvahs with their debut album, Strike. Reviving the sounds of the '50s, their old-fashioned rock & roll interpretations of contemporary pop hits saw them enter the Top Ten across nine European countries, but now with the element of surprise removed, they face an uphill task if they are to avoid the novelty wearing off with their second album, Strings 'n' Stripes. Luckily, the Elvis lookalikes have upped the ante on their 14 tracks with a braver selection of song choices and their first-ever original composition, "Hard Not to Cry," an authentic barbershop quartet-inspired tale of heartbreak which could comfortably fit onto a vintage jukebox playlist. As on their first offering, there are retro adaptations of tracks by Lady Gaga (a shuffling guitar-twanging take on "Paparazzi") and Katy Perry (a shimmering melodramatic rendition of "California Gurls"), but elsewhere, the Berliners showcase an entirely new artist repertoire, with a Roy Orbison-esque reworking of Martin Solveig's floor-filler "Hello," a classic surf rock spin on Kesha's party anthem "Tik Tok," and a melancholic, doo wop retooling of Backstreet Boys' "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)," sitting alongside adventurous but surprisingly effective forays into hip-hop territory on infectious tongue-in-cheek rockabilly versions of 50 Cent's "Candy Shop," Pras' "Ghetto Superstar," and Will Smith's "Miami." The old-school makeovers don't always work, as the feisty, empowering alt rock of Meredith Brooks' "Bitch" is rendered rather tame with its AM Pop harmonies and unnecessary lyrical changes, while the original version of Uncle Kracker's "Follow Me" managed to capture the American trad rock vibes more convincingly than the rather pedestrian arrangement included here. But overall, Strings 'n' Stripes is as feel-good as its predecessor which, as Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills describes on the '50s-style radio announcement intro, encapsulates "the sweet taste of summer."
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien