The Rumble Strips. Think sporadic outbursts of Charlie Waller’s adeptly versatile vocals, think big brass melodies and upbeat songs about puppy love.
Now, erase all preconceptions. The Rumble Strips have, by their own admission, grown up as a band and that difficult second album has undoubtedly been enhanced as a product of this new found maturity within in the band. That, and the input of love-or-hate producer Mark Ronson, who adds a trademark authentic 1940’s and 1960’s soul feel to the whole album, particularly on title track ‘Welcome to The Walk Alone’. A traditional sound that that Waller’s unique vocals compliment perfectly.
‘London’, ‘Back Bone’ and stand out track ‘Not the Only Person’ serve to reassure long-standing fans that all the components that captivated them initially have not been lost within The Rumble Strips. Far from being removed, they’re bigger than ever. Rammed with brass and drums (something that Ronson ensured by using three microphones on the drum kit) they have added a hyperbolic form of grandeur and boldness.
Yet, the alterations to the band are prominent in the shape of subject matter and lyrical development. ‘Raindrops’ is much darker than fans are used to, encapsulating the pain of a failing relationship perfectly with the pleading lyrics; /Say the same words, mean them more/. Of course it’s as epic as the rest of the album promises, but this edge to the album is something new from The Rumble Strips and a very welcomed dose of pathos. Similarly, finale track ‘Happy Hell’ sticks to the same semantics of loss and deceit with ballad inspired lyrics /The only way now is all the way down to hell/ Can’t you tell? Where do you go when you’ve got no soul left to sell?/
The only real criticism of the band’s follow up is that, far from a background album, sometimes the sheer proverbial size of the tracks is a bit overpowering and difficult to take in. Yet, in some ways, this grandness and huge orchestration, is one of the albums best assets.
In many ways it’s hard to believe these are the same boys that were once singing about motorbikes and alarm clocks, but The Rumble Strips have managed to evidently grow as a band, moving their musical style and lyrical abilities forward as well as encapsulating everything we already loved about them.
The Rumble Strips have essentially blasted their musical hurricane with a magnifying glass. Everything is bigger. And quite unthinkably, it’s even better.