In the U.K., the Rumble Strips are treated as something of an oddity. They’re seen as nothing more than a Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s knock-off, solely because Dexy’s are the only other ska band that ever really hit the mainstream there. In actuality, the Rumble Strips don’t even sound like a ska band (unless you count having a trumpet and a sax player in the same lineup); they sound like just about every other new-new Britpop band to hit BBC Radio 1 in the last five years, wiht bright sing-along choruses, fast, post-punk rhythms, and hyper-literal lyrics. Yet for all the common traits they share with their Britpop brethren, the Strips hold one trump card: the ability to speak to the common man, whether he be British, American, or Ethiopian.
The Strips debut, Girls and Weather (released in the U.K. last September) finds lead Strip Charlie Waller taking on subjects that will speak to anyone who’s had to hold down a shit job in their life. He sings about wanting to kill his alarm clock because that asshole is always waking him up for work (on album standout “Alarm Clock”), wishing he had a motorcycle because he’d be home from work already (on “Motorcycle”), and having to walk home with sore feet because he doesn’t have enough money to take the bus (on album closer “Hands”).
But it’s not all songs about work and lack of cash. On the spritely “Girls and Boys in Love,” Waller talks about looking for love and finding plenty of girls and boys in love, but not being able to find that for himself. “Don’t Dumb Down” is about losing oneself while trying to fit in where you don’t belong (in this case, London), and the flaring “Hate Me (You Do)” is a seething finger-pointing session directed at an ex-lover.
Girls and Weather is a rousing debut effort from a band that isn’t out to try to pull birds by acting like the Stones (or the Clash or the Libertines). These musicians are far more concerned with music’s potential to articulate working class restlessness — and they more than succeeded here.