Friday, September 19, 2008

Music Review: The Rumble Strips- Girls and Weather

British imports The Rumble Strips
offer up plenty of soul you can surf to

in their ska-heavy rock debut CD.


Although lead vocalist Charlie Waller achingly proclaims, “I ain’t got no soul,” on the opening track of his band The Rumble Strips’ debut record Girls and Weather, it quickly proves to be ironic. For, once the melancholic lyrics give way to build rhythmic momentum with additional instruments, “No Soul” morphs into what could essentially be called the band’s quintessential sound, namely a sunny hodgepodge of vintage scratchy guitar rock, soul you can surf to and Clash inspired ska.

Amidst Matthew Wheeler’s danceable drumming, The Rumble Strips utilize a variety of musical techniques ranging from simple handclaps to symphonic styled crescendos, making the most of the band’s saxophonist Tom Gorbutt and trumpeter Henry Clark to create a brisk, up-tempo album.

Samples of Girls and Weather are available for a listen over on the band’s official MySpace Page and the site currently features the popular tune “Girls and Boys in Love” which was featured as the first track on the soundtrack for director David Schwimmer’s film, Run Fat Boy Run starring Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz).

While that’s probably the most recognizable track to American audiences, now with the full release of the album here in the states, you’ll also discover the band’s hits The Rumble Stripsdirectly from the UK Singles Charts. These include the wistfully fun, old-school Queen-inspired “Motorcycle” and the humorous, relatable “Alarm Clock” with tongue-in-cheek lyrics sure to strike a chord with those who appreciate the clever comedy in lines penned by Weezer.

Now based in London, the band-mates who’ve been in each other’s lives since their youth in Tavistock, Devon named themselves after the real Rumble Strips, which Wikipedia explains are not only “small, continuous lines of bumps along the edge of a road” but are also applied “to alert drivers when they drift from their lane, or across the direction of travel to warn drivers of a nearby danger-spot." So, perhaps in this case, the band's songs will act as a buffer to warn previously passive listeners when they’re about to zone out from too much similar sounding music. This is especially true since they'll no doubt be jolted to attention as soon as they’ve inserted Girls and Weather into their CD player.

The Rumble Strips first burst out of the indie British music scene and into a greater spotlight with their phenomenal remix of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” which you can see performed by Waller and Mark Ronson in a terrific clip taken from BBC’s 2007 Electric Proms via this YouTube video. After earning a boost from notable producer Ronson who became a fan of the Strips, they received unprecedented exposure as Waller flew out to California to perform with Ronson at Coachella, gaining an even larger audience.

Weaving their various, diverse influences throughout the album, The Rumble Strips leave no decade behind when blending together the sounds for their songs. Upon repeat listens to Girls and Weather, music lovers are sure to discover that every track reveals a different homage including the big band sounds of the 40s, the doo-wop of the 50s, the soulful yearning of the 60s, 70’s punk, 80’s new wave, 90’s ska, and the bare-bones return to no-frills rock and roll that appeared after the dawn of the new millennium.

With simple titles and lyrics such as “Building A Boat” and “Cowboy,” the most frequently explored concerns on the album feature the titular topics of weather and girls but aside from the hits, The Rumble Strips Livetwo of the disc's standouts are the soulful “Time,” and “Oh Creole,” which not only has the most sing-along potential but would also make an excellent single for American radio play.

The disc’s final track “Hands” begins deceptively as a romantic ballad and then quickly evolves into a raucously rousing close that’s so boisterous you’ll immediately want to give the album another spin.

This being said, if by the final closing seconds, you haven’t caught yourself moving to the beat of the album, I’d recommend the following course of action: 1) make sure the stereo is plugged in; 2) turn up the volume; and 3) check your wrist for a pulse.

If all three are in working order, the only thing I have left to advise is for you to repeat the first song “No Soul,” since that track alone will be a litmus test to see if Rumble’s rock is in your soul. Since — despite the ironic title — when the Rumble Strips’ work builds as the rest of their jovial album continues, they prove that soul is the one thing of which they have more than enough. Needless to say, we're just lucky they chose to share it with us.