Live Review : The Rumble Strips

Brassy, bullish proof that the time of Mark Ronson’s latest clients is definitely upon us. The Cockpit, Leeds Wednesday, March 11

Of all music fans, it’s those of The Rumble Strips who sleep the soundest, smug in the knowledge that their boys’ next single will be fitted with the same winning components as their last… and the five before that. Overblown doo-wop harmonies, Motown hand-smacks and fanciful tales of talking alarm clocks and flying motorbikes make up the friendly, if somewhat fraying, formula that has made them the ultimate musical comfort blanket.

Yet tonight, as a dagger-eyed Charlie Waller seethes the disapproving lyric “Daniel, Daniel, look what you’ve done” over a death-march drum roll and sinister backing chants, said blankie is thrown to the dogs. This is dramatic stuff, and were we in any venue other than the grim hull of Leeds railway station, we’d be expecting the Phantom Of The Opera to swoop down and plant a smacker on the Strips’ frontman’s pursed lips. ‘Daniel’ is one of several new songs from the band’s forthcoming, Mark Ronson-produced album to be aired tonight, and for the heart-halting moments of these opening bars it looks as though Ronson’s hefty asking price was the boys’ fun-loving souls.

Yet the song soon revs into an almighty climax, with newbie Rumbler Sam Mansbridge ditching his bass in order to savagely lay into a gigantic drum, while Charlie administers stormy lashes to his battered old guitar. Far from the sounds of a band who have dulled down, this new material is in fact stewing with more soul and elbow grease than ever before. They’ve also upped their live game considerably, with Henry Clark’s trumpet and Tom Gorbutt’s sax cavorting magnificently in the full-on ’50s swing-fest ‘London’. Meanwhile, as well as reminding us of Charlie’s knack for a hit melody, stand-out track ‘Only Person’ shows off a shiny pair of newly-welded iron lungs.

If it’s old hits you’re here to snuggle up to then there are plenty of those to go round too. The Devonshire lads’ newfound vitality swirls onlookers into a frenzied love-pit during ‘Clouds’, and into a mass jive-along in pop-pocket ‘Girls And Boys In Love’. And remember ‘Alarm Clock’? That ditty which a year ago just about tickled your young ska bones? Well, tonight it’s a full-throttle tidal wave of five-part harmonies, body-shocking brass and flashing crowdsurfers. They missed ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ off the setlist, but from the grins on their faces as they survey their good work, we can tell they’re thinking it.

Camille Augarde