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The Rumble Strips - Welcome To The Walk Alone

The Rumble Strips, Welcome To The Walk Alone

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

THERE have been a few changes to The Rumble Strips since the release of their critically-acclaimed but somewhat overlooked debut album Girls And Weather. And most of them are for the better!

The band have swelled to a five-piece following the recruitment of Sam Mansbridge as their permanent bass player, and they’ve also befriended and recruited Mark Ronson as producer.

Ronson’s influence is evident on the commanding orchestral arrangements that permeate throughout, as well as the more adventurous production values – never more so than on rapturous lead single Not The Only Person.

But while Welcome To The Walk Alone is another fun listen, there’s a lingering suspicion that the band may continue to really thrust themselves onto the mainstream, partly because of Charlie Waller’s oh-so distinct vocals. You either warm to them, or you don’t.

The expansive nature of their music may also be irksome for listeners – as they possess both the upbeat vibrancy of acts like The Coral, and the madcap debonair of early Madness.

Take the trumpet fanfare that marks the start of Raindrops, for instance. It’s instantly take-notice, but it’s also reminiscent of Suggs and company, before slowing down the tempo briefly and then reaching a horn solo at about the two minute mark. Waller’s vocals wail in places, and are delivered with abandon, but not always to the benefit of the track. It’s a fanfare of a song, but one that could easily get on some people’s nerves.

The Rumble Strips are much better when keeping things direct and less fancy… by virtue of the fact they’re more universal and more approachable. Not The Only Person, for instance, is an absolute riot – a sweeping, orchestral offering that’s really made for playing out loud.

The shimmering guitar licks of Douglas, meanwhile, provide a nice retro backdrop to the type of track that bears plenty of Ronson’s production trademarks, while Sweet Heart Hooligan is a beautifully composed, piano-driven offering that marks the sound of The Rumble Strips at their most playfully romantic.

And Dem Girls offers another highlight – an appealing mix of Talking Heads style vocal delivery, and lively pianos, horns and guitars.

Elsewhere, however, some of the band’s slightly more bizarre/eccentric tendencies provide for a more thoughtful, less instantaneous approach. Happy Hell is a curious album closer, London could do with a slightly more restrained vocal approach from Waller during its verses, and Back Bone opens with a Wizard of Oz-style fantasy strings extravaganza before settling into a slightly underwhelming symphony of sorts.

That said, almost every track has something to surprise or mark it out as different from the norm, which is both a blessing for the dedicated listener, and a curse for those with more mainstream sensibilities. Welcome To The Walk Alone, for all its quirkier tendencies and failings, is still a celebratory listen.

Download picks: Not The Only Person, Sweet Heart Hooligan, Dem Girls, Douglas

Track listing:

  1. Welcome To The Walk Alone
  2. London
  3. Not The Only Person
  4. Daniel
  5. Douglas
  6. Back Bone
  7. Sweet Heart Hooligan
  8. Running On Empty
  9. Dem Girls
  10. Raindrops
  11. Happy Hell