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Rumble Strips
Bowery Ballroom

November 1, 2008

Written by Eric Atienza
Photographed by Amy Davidson

Opposite Photo: Rumble Strips


While some may have still been shaking of post-Halloween hangovers, British rockers the Rumble Strips were bringing their soul-infused ska sound to the Bowery Ballroom.

Taking the stage first, however, were local four-piece The Dig. Following up on three separate four-week residencies at Pianos on the Lower East Side, and opening gigs for Girl Talk and Tapes ‘n Tapes, the New York rockers warmed the room with a stark two-headed attack. Guitarist David Baldwin split lead time with bass player Emile Mosseri, showing off vastly different styles in songwriting and delivery. Baldwin’s crooning vocals recalled Thom Yorke’s more mid-tempoed expressions while Mosseri dipped into the more visceral echoing the hoarse screams of Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser. Listening to the competing song styles was like listening to two different bands, with Mosseri’s acerbic, caustic, frenetic pacing coming out on top. While Baldwin’s vocals were up to snuff, the songs they fronted were by and large less riotous and engaging than the bassist’s wicked tunes. In all, the set was entertaining, if uneven.

San Francisco’s Birdmonster followed up with what can only be described as southern-tinged west coast rock. The country swing and twang was definitely present throughout their set, but bits of sweet California pop were ingrained into every note and chord progression. The music was straightforward to the point of predictability and covered the group with a veneer of pristine neatness that kept anything in the music from really taking hold. The songs - and, really, the group as a whole - were unassuming to a fault and could have used some jagged edges and coarse curves give their aesthetic a more memorable kick.

Rumble Strips

Rumble Strips

The Rumble Strips took the stage about a year and a half removed from the British release of their full length Girls and Weather and a year after the U.S. release of their Alarm Clock E.P. to answer the question “What, exactly, would a British Reel Big Fish sound like?” This is not to their detriment at all and with less punk and more swing – and a definite Andrew Bird sounding vocal – they launched into an upbeat pep-filled hour(ish) of music. The only knock on the live show is that they sound a bit too polished for such an unrestrained style of music, but this was easily overcome by sheer volume of energy. Lead vocalist Charlie Waller has a wicked wail and he and the other Strips can pen and perform a catchy hook with the best of them.

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