Rumble Strips Debut New Album Live

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Rumble Strips / Photo by Nicholas Gawith
WRITTEN BY
Melissa Goldstein

Wednesday night's Rumble Strips album launch party in London had all the trappings of a music industry wedding.

There was something old -- the venue: an exquisite yet crumbling grand music hall known as Wilton's. There was something new -- the album: the band's second effort, produced by Mark Ronson and titled Welcome to the Walk Alone. There was something borrowed -- a mini-orchestra: filled out with a string and horn section playing arrangements written by Arcade Fire collaborator Owen Pallett (a.k.a. Final Fantasy). And there was something blue -- the audience: because of the notable omission of the band's infectious 2007 single "Girls and Boys in Love" from the setlist.

Even the guest list felt perfectly cast -- from the fashionable and unidentified songstress at the bar fielding accolades for her soon-to-drop track, to the attendance of dolled-up scene staples like designer (and Agyness Deyn cohort) Henry Holland.

And, as on any big day, there was bound to be a touch of the jitters: Leading man Charlie Waller took to the stage with what appeared to be a bit of trepidation, starting things out on a mellow note with title track "Welcome to the Walk Alone."

Luckily, by the quintet's second tune, the galloping and poppy "London," the frontman appeared to relax into the unfurling celebration.

For those who hadn't heard the record, the set served as an introduction to the band's newly Ronsonated sound: tightly-orchestrated pop delivered with that trademark Waller yelp, but now glistening with influences such as shiny '60s rock and French chanson, a polyrhythmic singing style from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance.

The it-boy producer himself was deliberately low-profile, seemingly not wanting to outshine the band on their big night. He watched from the wings throughout the set and slinked onstage only once (after a dapper adjustment to the cuffs), for a stint on the keys during set highlight "Raindrops."

Despite the sense of occasion, the mood was decidedly casual: Stage banter was virtually nonexistent. And Waller concluded the band's set with a casual "Cheers," as if the audience had bought the first round. Points for showmanship went to bassist Sam Mansbridge (who had evidently done his rock-pose homework) and the band's stride-hitting encores (there were two) which included old faves "Motorcyle" and "Time."

True to their name, the outfit came over as a rumble -- with a hint of something exciting as their upcoming album waits to erupt.

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