In ‘Girls and Weather’, The Rumble Strips have recorded a truly classic debut album. With their somewhat eccentric origins in Devon, the four young men from Tavistock have fashioned a set of songs steeped with huge, life-affirming choruses all awash with the optimism of youth.
This is a band whose sound and look is entirely their own: thundering drums and piano, brass to stir the soul and singer Charlie Waller’s voice – a thing of rare beauty and power suggesting the arrival of a genuine new star.
Among the band’s most passionate fans is producer du jour, Mark Ronson. Having heard Rumble Strips’ spine tingling reworking of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back to Black’, Ronson fell in love with the band. He promptly invited Charlie to sing lead vocals at his acclaimed BBC Electric Proms performance at the London Roundhouse last year, with Charlie’s performance widely declared the highlight of the evening.
Further guest appearances have followed as Ronson and Charlie’s relationship has blossomed, including their first American appearance together when Mark flew Charlie out to Coachella to share the stage with him.
”Girls and Weather” opens with Charlie hollering as if his life depended on it, “I ain’t got no soul”. What follows is 12 songs bristling with energy, frantic rhythms, wide-eyed yearning and certainly no little soul.
Indeed, the Young Soul Rebel spirit of the singles ‘Alarm Clock’ and ‘Motorcycle’ is evident on the album, but the record also takes in a range of less expected (but no less profound) influences: the gorgeous harmonies are born out of the band’s love of 1950s doo-wop, whilst the epic nature of Charlie’s song writing recalls the oddball genius of both Adam Ant and Queen (as imagined by the Stax house band).
Elsewhere, the brass on ‘Oh Creole’ is like a rousing, doom laden Van Morrison classic, whilst the E Street holler of ‘Hate Me (You Do)’ owes it’s anthemic quality to Tom Gorbutt’s inspired saxophone opening. Clocking in under two minutes, August single ‘Girls and Boy in Love’ is all hand clap rhythms, Motown piano and gorgeous, bitter sweet melodies - a festival anthem for certain.
Recalling the achingly close, three part harmonies of Rubber Soul era Beatles, ‘Don’t Dumb Down’ is a scathing tale of faking to impress. Key lyrics: “You don’t come from London do you? / But, sometimes you sound like you do / What the hell is that all about?”
The album closes with arguably it’s strongest moment. Built around a huge, Talking Heads-esque piano rhythm, ‘Hands’ is an extraordinary piece of song writing. Charlie’s almost spoken word delivery is like an anglicised Springsteen, as he talks of finding himself, “on the hard shoulder of the motorway / to my feet I tried to complain / but I don’t think they were listening”, as the song build to almighty crescendo.
The Rumble Strips are a truly special group: Pure, sad and romantic. Theirs are songs that strike a chord with the masses, whilst remaining enigmatic and standing alone from the crowd.
The Rumble Strips are:
CHARLES WALLER – Vox / Guitar
MATTHEW WHEELER - drums
HENRY CLARK – keys / trumpet
THOMAS GORBUTT – Sax / bass
Sam Mansbridge - Bass/ Percussion
2008 US Fall Tour
10/2/2008 Princeton, NJ Terrace Club
10/3/2008 Williamsburg, Brooklyn Sound Fix
10/4/2008 Philadelphia, PA Johnny Brenda's
10/5/2008 Washington, D.C. Black Cat
10/6/2008 Carrboro, NC Cat's Cradle
10/7/2008 Atlanta, GA The Earl
10/8/2008 Orlando, Fl The Social
10/9/2008 Tallahassee, FL Club Downunder
10/10/2008 New Orleans, LA House of Blues
10/11/2008 Austin, TX The Parish Room
10/14/2008 San Diego, CA Casbah
10/15/2008 Los Angeles, CA Spaceland
10/16/2008 San Francisco, CA Pop Scene
10/18/2008 Portland, OR Doug Fir Lounge
10/19/2008 Seattle, WA Chop Suey
10/20/2008 Vancouver, BC Media Club
10/23/2008 Minneapolis, MN 7th St. Entry
10/24/2008 Chicago, IL Abbey Pub
10/25/2008 Madison, WI Der Rathskellar
10/27/2008 Newport, KY Southgate House
10/28/2008 Detroit, MI Magic Stick
10/29/2008 Toronto, ON El Mocambo
10/30/2008 Montreal, QC Zoo Bizarre
10/31/2008 Cambridge, MA TT the Bears
11/1/2008 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom