Idea for a TV series: When Good Bands Go Bad. It’s got it all! Power, sex, intrigue and bright-eyed sensitive types gazing into the abyss and realising that hey, nice guys finish last. Put a moderately successful British indie band at one end of a field, a big pile of cash at the other and watch them trip over themselves to surrender their integrity on the way to get it, crying and compromising along the way. First up for Episode One are [a]The Rumble Strips[/a].
It turns out that branding, a rigidly defined and unique selling point and blanket advertising can’t make you anything you’re not: like any good. ‘Welcome To The Walk Alone’ may have the skeletal blueprint of pop genius running through it like words in a stick of rock but it verges on insulting. Mark Ronson production, chirpy post-pop guitars, luvvy-duvvy-wuvvy heart-on-sleeve lyrics about pwetty girls… and yes, you can guarantee there’ll be bloody trumpets. On lead single ‘Not The Only Person’ they’re obviously shooting for Orange Juice’s ‘Blue Boy’ with the euphoric melody and yelping vocals, but the textbook string section is hollow and, in its most faux-earnest moments, Charlie Waller’s voice verges on the vomit-inducing. We can’t help pining for the vibrant and enthused band that took the NME Tour by storm and wondering when making it all so slick that personality bounces straight off became so damn important.
Some people love this kind of animatronic metamorphosis, but only the kind of people who went to Glastonbury this year because Grazia rated it five phwoars out of five on the manometer. This is obviously good news for the music industry: upper-middle-class Big Brother rejects tend to have a lot of expendable income because they only buy cocaine and live with their parents. Squeezing yourself into the already-bulging mould of Razorlight, The Kooks et al is still more likely to guarantee you a low status main stage billing than actually sounding good, and so creativity takes a back seat.
Luckily, ‘Mark Ronson-produced’ has already become synonymous with ‘garish and unlistenable’, so we’re
saved the inevitable crushing disappointment when The Next Big Thing turns out to be just another
indie-by-numbers, stadium-filling, over-produced, shamelessly derivative, five-man, smug-faced shit factory. We like to imagine the recording process involved Ronson beating them with sticks and screaming, “Be more epic!” This album is the solitary cockroach scuttling around in the post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteground of British music circa-2001. Pick any song on the album you like; ‘London’ (The Young Knives did it better), any other song (The Futureheads did it better). It’s shameful. Well presented and immaculately recorded, but still shit sub-Maccabees schlock.
And the pilfering doesn’t end there: this album will be massive, but that’s no excuse for not picking apart the underlying laziness that makes its advert-friendly wipe-clean Stepford Wives-rock so hard to stomach. Opening track ‘Welcome To The Walk Alone’ sounds like The Killers after their second lobotomy while both ‘Raindrops’ and ‘Daniel’, like much of the album, cherry-pick from The Last Shadow Puppets without recognising that it’s not just a matter of gunning through it like Justin Lee Collins doing a big band sketch on The Sunday Night Project.
Then there’s the filler and, dear God, there’s a lot of filler. We barely remember what ‘Sweet Heart Hooligan’ sounds like because it keeps getting mixed up in our head with the music from the Müller Rice advert, but then you know what they say about small mercies.
Oh well, they look pretty old – this was probably their last shot at making a go of doing ‘something they love’ so maybe selling their soul to Satan was fair enough, something we like to call ‘Wombats Syndrome’. Hopefully, it’s deadly.
What do you think of the album? Let us know by posting a comment below.