On the fourth studio album from Canadian-band The Strumbellas, the six-piece folk rock band expand their sound into nine cohesive songs. Rattlesnake takes us on a journey through multiple themes and moods, and begins to embrace less of an introspective approach to their lyrics than fans have grown accustomed to over the years. Coming off of the success of their Glassnote Records debut album, Hope, and the #1 Alternative single “Spirits,” The Strumbellas may have felt a greater sense of pressure to deliver on this record. Lucky for us, The Strumbellas were up to the task of making an LP worthy of repeat listens throughout the Spring season.
Kicking off the set with the anthemic first single, “Salvation,” The Strumbellas showcase a new-found swagger and confidence that was less apparent on their earlier work. Lead singer/guitarist Simon Ward sets the tone of the record early on this song when he sings exuberantly, “I like to dance under street lamps and walk upon the clouds/I like to shout from the rooftops and surf on top of the crowd/For many years, many years I was scared of the person I was/And I’m not perfect they say, but I know that I was born to be loved.” Ward has always put forth an optimistic view on life, and his warm approach to songwriting feels like having an old friend come by to visit.
The part of The Strumbellas’ music that I find most endearing is not only their rosy outlook on life but the way they focus on important friendships and relationships to help us navigate through this crazy life. This is never more apparent on songs such as “I’ll Wait,” that finds the band telling a story of letting their friends know that they’ve got their backs when times get tough. “One Hand Up” on the other hand, lets The Strumbellas gather their army of listeners to not give up on their quests for purpose in their own lives. For example, when Ward sings, “We can be the love and we’ll teach ’em how/We’re pounding on the drum when they say ‘Quiet down’/We can go wild if we want to/We can run for miles,” it’s almost as if Ward is encouraging all of us to continue to press on when the outside noise of doubters is telling us otherwise.
Other tracks such as the tender ballad, “We All Need Someone,” find the band continuing with their lyrical theme of not being afraid to lean on the help of each other to get through the tough times as they come. The Strumbellas come to terms with the concept often, but they never force the issue in a way that may seem cliché or clumsy to the average band. In other words, this band makes it all feel authentic and heartfelt.
While I found the middle stages of the album a tad slower than I expected (based on the brisk opening trio of songs), they are reasonably straight-forward into the realm of The Strumbellas’ past discography. The main weakness of this LP is the sequencing of tracks, as it loses a lot of its early momentum in these down-tempo tracks wedged into the heart of the record.
Things eventually pick up again on the choruses of “High” where Ward sings, “Help me up when I’m upside down/You make it sing when I just hear sound/With the world on my shoulders/We’ll never get older/We can all get a little.” The verses were a bit too slow for my liking on this track, on an album that could have used a few more tempo changes to make more of a lasting impact.
The album closer “All My Life” ties up the themes mentioned previously into a cohesive bow. The song is filled with several metaphors that tie in directly to the album name and let us into the story of a person that is dragging them down. In a record filled with many uplifting moments, it was a curious choice of an album closer.
Overall, I found enough redeeming qualities in this LP to see myself continuing to fit it into my record rotation. Whereas the record could have benefited from a resequencing of tracks, there should still be enough new ground covered here for even the casual listeners to take something away from that brings meaning to them.