The Rumble Strips don't take any chances on Girls and Weather, but that's because they don't need to. If the Devon foursome's fun, innocent, and refreshingly light tone -- not to mention their eschewing of guitars in favor of horns -- isn't enough to make their debut album stand out, then their musicianship and wry lyrics certainly are. It takes a few listens to discern the Rumble Strips' technical proficiency, because it's all too easy to get caught up in the fun that they're having instead. There's no build-up to the revelry -- Girls and Weather gets off to a rollicking start with "No Soul," a tune that sounds a bit like a Kaiser Chiefs tune that replaces synthesizers with a deliberately off-kilter brass section. It's immediately followed by "Alarm Clock," which tells the story of a young slacker through the use of an infectious melody, singalong chorus, and cheery self-deprecation. Happy melodies coupled with bittersweet lyrics are a running theme throughout the album, but it's a formula that works well for the Rumble Strips, especially when they're poking fun at the Walter Mitty-like fantasies of average Joes. The best example of this on the album is "Motorcycle," a riotous take on the "cars and girls song" that alternates between the mundane reality of a 10-speed bike and the sunny fantasy of a motorized chick magnet. There are times when the band's giddiness is a little too overwhelming -- the repetition of the chorus on "Clouds" quickly goes from endearing to annoying -- but it's a minor complaint in the end. Girls and Weather loses neither steam nor charm throughout; it's an album for adults who want an excuse to behave like kids again. -AMG
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