Rhumba Club – Welcome To The Rhumba Club

Welcome To Them Rhumba Club - album cover

As I may have said previously Jersey born and raised musician Rhumba Club, aka Tom Falle, has spent the last couple of years building up quite a formidable reputation both live (where possible) and with a string of singles that have seen him get air play and recognition from the like of BBC Music Introducing, BBC 6Music, GQ, Attitude and more, and now he’s dropped his debut album, appropriately titled, Welcome To The Rhumba Club.

I think it’s fair to make it clear from the off that, yes, the whole record really has an exceptional retro and 1980s feel to it and it would be easy to get a bit lost in that but once your ear settles into that there is a lot more going on besides, both musically and meaningfully.

It opens with Primitive which drops us into Rhumba Club’s world expertly with its mix of danceable music and a positive message around personal image and style.

Rhumba Club

It also starts a theme of decrying social media culture that continues elsewhere, most notably on Pocket Machine, while the Phil Collins style drums are, as would expect from that description, a nice touch that adds a real kick.

While Primitive leads us in its title track Welcome To The Rhumba Club that unsurprisingly provides a real statement of intent and purpose and is a terrific alt-queer anthem that feels like something much needed.

Conversion has, from the title, a rather obvious theme but manages to find two, or maybe even three, different meanings which are fascinatingly interwoven throughout the track.

In this it feels like an attempt to reclaim the word with a positive aspect while also highlighting the issue of conversion therapy and religious conversion amazingly without becoming a miserablist tract on the subject.

Rhumba Club

Something of a change in musical pace comes next with Guess This Is Love? which brings an almost soul or Motown vibe to the record which, towards the end brings in an unexpected ELO style guitar solo all while continuing an exploration of modern queerness.

Then it’s back to the 80s style synths for Normativity, a song that, at points, made me want to exclaim a loud yes as it rallies against many aspects of ‘conventional’ lifestyles and typical views of masculinity, making for a highlight of the record that has a great message while again being something you can very much dance to.

(I’m Gonna Construct) An Image is a previous single I’ve already looked at (click here to read that) but it comes to life even more as part of the record and, in a lot of ways, acts as something of a microcosm of the record of a whole (as good lead singles often do) all delivered to a soulful synth backdrop and with a key lyric, for me at least, being ‘Freaks like me can be part of action’.

Rhumba Club

Guilty quickly builds into an absolute banger (to use the modern vernacular) of a dance track while exploring some fairly dark issues of relationships that again manages to find its own positive within them before The Rhumba Club is Waiting For Me acts as a companion to Welcome To… earlier on, pulling together everything we’ve heard so far and once more finding a strong positivity in individuality, along with the excellent lyric of ‘I’m Just A Boy, I’m paranoid, engaging in self-Schadenfreude’.

In a lot of ways this feels like the end of the record but we then get The Country which slows things right down to end and presents maybe the most directly open song of the set (which is quite a feat as openness and honesty are key elements throughout).

In it Falle explores his relationship with his home island and how his queerness was (or wasn’t) accepted there and, coming from a similarly small community, there’s a lot to relate to that I’m sure many will also find, along with this it also shows another side musically being far more of a piano based ballad than anything else presented here.

Rhumba Club
Rhumba Club

Welcome To The Rhumba Club then shows that there’s far more at play here than gimmicky retro synths as honesty, openness and sheer meaningful positivity ring out through the occasional moments of archness and camp.

This is also clearly a fully conceptual set of songs rather than just a bunch of singles strung together, and is all the stronger for it, making this not just a terrific slice of queer alt-pop disco but something far deeper, if that’s what you want to find, providing something far more engaging than most things that get tagged as displaying queer representation in pop.

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