Fans of The Rumble Strips will have been shocked when they heard the hornless first release from the new album Welcome to Walk Alone. Given the band have teamed up with producer Mark Ronson, you might be forgiven for expecting it to sound like Grimethorpe Colliery Band covering the back catalogue of Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Instead it opens with the majestic ‘Welcome to the Walk Alone’ which is reminiscent of Scott Walker’s saturnine best.
When Charlie Waller sings “Welcome to the Walk Alone/Us boys are worth our weight in stones”, you are in no doubt that something in the band’s DNA has changed. Where the debut Girls and Weather was optimistic and whimsical, this follow up is brooding to the point of menace and a full of purpose. Obviously Henry Clark and Tom Gorbutt’s horns are in effect, but they are downplayed and more bluesy, even on the upbeat offerings like ‘London’. This album is all about Matthew Wheeler’s drums which rumble throughout, largely without cymbals, to create a thundering 50s sound.
The emotions of love and loss are heightened by tremulous strings on ‘Back Bone’ and ‘Happy Hell’ which hark back to an era of big bands and melodrama. ‘Running on Empty’ is raw and edgy rockabilly with Waller screaming out at the top of his range, reflecting just how hard the band and Ronson have squeezed their sound till its pips squeak. Welcome to the Walk Alone is bold step forward after the sunny and modestly successful Girls and Weather.
Teaming up with Ronson was a masterstroke and going against type has spawned a superlative second album by the boys from Devon that may well be good enough to bring them mainstream chart success.
Words: Jon Cheetham