Critics have been quick to dub the Rumble Strips the second coming of Dexys Midnight Runners—perhaps because Dexys Midnight Runners never had a second coming of their own. The Strips' chipper debut, Girls and Weather, contains two indelibly perfect singles: The effervescently twisting "Boys and Girls in Love," which sounds like rockabilly on catnip, and the soulful "Time," which pairs a frantic backbeat with a gliding, hymn-like chorale. But apart from the ever-climbing vocals of Charlie Waller, any similarities to Kevin Rowland & Co. are largely superficial.
It's the horns, probably. Trumpet and sax grace most of Girls and Weather, with Waller's slapping acoustic guitar providing a homegrown, folksy element. Part of the band's sound comes from their origins in Tavistock, a small market town in the county of Devon. "Devon [is part of] the little tail that comes out of the southwest corner of England," says Waller. "It's quite countryside, lots of moorland and farms."
The band relocated to London several years ago, but they have sidestepped almost every recent trend, and their singularity may be a result of their early isolation. "Personally, I think the West Country had quite a sort of hip image, and there was a lot of reggae music and horn players around when we were young," Waller says. "But also I think maybe because we were cut off from any sort of scene, we listened to lots of old records. I really got into Adam and the Ants when I was a teenager, and a lot of early rock 'n' roll, doo-wop, and things like Dion and the Belmonts."
Indeed, Waller's soaring vocals are a big part of the story, and on the album's few slow moments, he sometimes sounds like a 1920s crooner creaking out of a musty Victrola. This lusher side may be explored further on the forthcoming second album, on which the band has been working with Mark Ronson. "It's more piano-led than horn-led at the moment, less frantic," says Waller. For now, though, Girls and Weather is content to revel in simple urges, much like those created by the two undeniable elements in the album's title.