The Rumble Strips - Welcome to the Walk Alone
This album's sombre title seems apt in wake of a July release that hardly resulted in the desired chart-bothering. However, in dropping the Dexys vibe for romantic classicism a la Scott Walker and Phil Spector, the Devonshire band's commercial failure is still a frequently lush second chapter.
All the bells and whistles (oh, and horns) we've come to expect from a Mark Ronson production are evident from the off; whether it's some much-needed space from overplay of Valerie or the band's ability to get the best out of their producer, Welcome to the Walk Alone sounds like the best thing he's done since Back to Black. From the joyful romp of London, enough to get the Camden girls dancing in their Mary Quant minis, to the singalong pleasures of Daniel and lead single Not the Only Person, there are enough choruses for Ronson to work his retro-pop charm.
The clarity of frontman Charlie Waller's voice lends itself to crooning, so it should be no surprise that there are moments, title track included, where Tom Jones showboating takes precedence. It is perhaps this old-fashioned approach that has dented the band's chart hopes; perhaps there's only room for one set of pesky lounge-lizards-cum-indie-boyz and, yes, I'm looking at you Last Shadow Puppets. However, with orchestration from Final Fantasy string wizard Owen Pallett (who also lent a hand on Alex Turner's sideshow), the balladeering should have the power to woo even the coolest wannabe scenester.
Saying that, your mom and pops may enjoy this record more in the long term, such is its unerring sense of time and place and - unlike 90% of current musical output - that time and place is not the 1980s. This may be pop with a foot in the past but the shin is certainly free of legwarmer.