Crash Landing in Los Angeles

British Songwriter Alex Troup Soldiers on in an Unfamiliar Place

by Jon Garrett


If, as F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, there truly are no second acts in American lives, Alex Troup must be grateful for his British citizenship. Now a full six years removed from the release of his former outfit’s first and only album, the erstwhile frontman for Crashland now finds himself halfway around the world, looking for a fresh start in southern California. Like many of the hopefuls who show up on Hollywood’s doorstep, Troup seems eager to shed his past. Here, at the famed Rainbow Bar & Grill—a Hollywood bar that attracted many a rock star in its late ‘80s heyday but now seems something of a quaint punchline with its odd collection of ratty-teed hipsters and gray-haired Yes fans—Troup shifts uneasily in his chair, rarely making eye contact. He discusses his former band, albeit somewhat reluctantly. One gets the sense that even with an ocean separating him from his former band mates and with a new musical project well underway, there is still some lingering unpleasantness and regret regarding Crashland’s demise.

When Crashland released Glued, their debut and what would turn out to be their final record on October 16, 2000, the UK was on the tail end of its love affair with Travis (with whom the band shared a label) and was just about to become acquainted with the garage revival spearheaded by The Strokes and White Stripes—a movement that would grip Britain for the better part of two years. Much like Adorable’s Fake and Comsat Angels’ My Mind’s Eye, Glued was a victim of unfortunate timing. Its Britpop pedigree may have made it seem horrendously out-of-step upon its release, hardly a harbinger of the future. But those influences are precisely what make it stand out so many years later, without the fickle tides of fashion to obscure its many attributes. Tracks like “Modern Animal” and “Waiting for Someone” present Troup alternately as the fierce, compulsive pop tunesmith and the lovesick troubadour. However, it is when these two personas collide on “Standard Love Affair” that Troup achieves transcendence, mixing sober regret with unmistakably buoyant pop.

Curiously, Troup seems less convinced that Glued is deserving of such lofty praise. Instead, he describes his songwriting in those days as “young and impetuous”. He concedes that several publications reviewed it favorably when it was released, but he is quick to shift the focus to the business dealings that no doubt consumed him at the time. He tells of a drug-addicted A&R man, intra-band skirmishes, and ultimately of the paltry 12,000 copies sold in the UK. Clearly, these are the memories of his stint in Crashland that stay with Troup so many years later. However, the final straw, the one that clearly rankles most, came in late 2003. The band, already dropped from their UK label, received an offer from an American record company and was flown for a showcase in Los Angeles. The band, badly in need of a new record deal, quickly made arrangements; however, the offer was withdrawn before the plane had even touched down. Crashland did wind up playing a showcase for a number of American labels, but when no deal panned out, the band, according to Troup, was finished.

Whatever feelings he may still harbor toward the group, Troup does at least seem grateful to Crashland for introducing him to his new hometown. He’s taken quite well to his Hollywood environs. His British pallor has been replaced by an unmistakable California bronze. He sports a pair of oversized shades. Troup looks like a man who grew up roaming the Strip. In fact, the only hint of his roots lie in his accent, which to the untrained ear might still be difficult to place. By all outward appearances, Troup has fully embraced the West Coast. Nowhere is this more evident than in his new project’s music.

Christened Troup, the new band, featuring Anthony Dean on guitar, Matt D on bass, and Adam Marcello on drums, takes Troup far outside the traditional confines of Britpop. Troup pays tribute to classic American pop-rock touchstones—whether it’s Hagar-era Van Halen on “Born Strange” or Bon Jovi via Butch Walker on the shamelessly anthemic “This is How It Feels”. “In Crashland, I wrote most of the songs,” says Troup. “But this project has definitely been more collaborative from the beginning.” That ceding of creative control might help explain the noticeable deficiency of British influences; however, Troup himself seems to have grown bored of UK rock; he struggles to name any recent British albums that have captured his imagination. Only after some prodding does he mention records from The Libertines and Razorlight.

Despite the obvious differences between the two groups, one thing that both Crashland and Troup do share, aside from their front man, is their apparent disregard for current trends. On paper and in execution, Troup has about as little in common with the prevailing darkly romantic nu-wave in Los Angeles as Crashland did with either the effeminate soft rock of Travis and Coldplay or the ramshackle garage of The Strokes and White Stripes. “I know it may be a hard sell,” says Troup of his new band. “But it’s useless for me to fight against what I’m good at.” And so, Troup, despite the many changes over the past six years, finds himself in an unfamiliar place, working at the margins and hoping that someone takes notice. For a new start, perhaps not as fresh as he would have liked, but it’s a start nonetheless.

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