When Devon five-piece The Rumble Strips burst on to the scene, they were an unpretentious, brassy breath of fresh air in a sea of posturing hipsters.
In 2007, they released two outstanding trumpet'n'sax-laden singles ("Alarm Clock" and "Girls and Boys in Love"), a so-so album (Girls and Weather), and then seemed to disappear. Or so I thought. Judging from the crowd at Dingwalls, while The Rumble Strips have failed to make a mark on the mainstream, they have built up a rabid, diverse following. Their fans are, by turn, scruffy and suited; most importantly, they love the band and they know all the words to their songs.
Well, nearly all of them, because, tonight, the band are showcasing several new songs from their forthcoming Mark Ronson-produced record. They open with a new one, "Why Can't I Love You in London", which is promisingly muscular and lovelorn, giving a chance for handsome front man Charlie Waller to show off his equally handsome lungs. The first oldie of the night, "Time", is also the first to get the singalong treatment, with roughly 80 per cent of the crowd crooning, "It's only time/ Let it pass away," with their lagers held aloft.
Having seen The Rumble Strips play to an indifferent crowd, seeing them interact with their fans is wonderful. The more love the audience throw at them, the more confidently they play. It's a real pleasure to see a band who are so tight, so well rehearsed, so good at what they do – a rare sight indeed. As for their actual songs – they're vivacious, upbeat, full of unabashed joie de vivre.
The only song that doesn't take off is a sludgy new one ("Running on Empty") with a touch of Sabbath-like screaming. But soon enough, they play the sentimental "Clouds" and all is not lost. Their final new song of the night, "Daniel", is also their best – a pleasingly creepy tune that sticks in my head for hours. Their token "hits" don't disappoint, either – when that incredible keyboard riff from "Girls and Boys in Love" hits, you can't quite believe it was never a Top 10 single. They finish with the catchy and rather timely (in more ways than one) "Alarm Clock", the rowdiest unemployment anthem ever. The Rumble Strips might never hit the big time, but they're a band to treasure, that's for sure.
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