Rock & roll is often at its best when exploding dead-ends into infinite possibilities. This is no easy trick. It requires a healthy dose of optimism and some wholly irrational belief, but also a clear-eyed understanding of how cold and indifferent reality, and those with the power to shape it, can be. “Lightning Don’t Strike Twice,” the new single from London outfit Chubby and the Gang, contends more with this latter half of the equation, while still refusing to relinquish any of that earlier hope.
Chubby and the Gang’s 2020 debut Speed Kills was, for the most part, a breathless barrage befitting that title. “Lightning Don’t Strike Twice” doesn’t let up any of that energy, but it finds Chubby and the Gang expanding the boundaries of their sound: a swampy slide guitar sets the stage for the breakneck riffs that follow, while the chorus finds the eponymous Gang bellowing pub-rock-style over frontman Charles Manning’s weathered howl.
“Lightning Don’t Strike Twice” comes from a place of empathy, with Manning explaining in a statement that the song was about social inequality: “Not mine, but the people I saw around me. I feel like the whole premise of poverty is presented like this game in which, if you play your cards right, you can escape.” The song’s final verse, he added, came after watching someone alter their voice on a phone call so it didn’t seem like they came from a lower class. “It disgusted me that in a system supposedly created on meritocracy, a human being has to change their identity to try and shake unemployment,” Manning said.
Manning zeroes in on this fallacy of meritocracy on the song’s hook, “They say lightning don’t strike twice/But these still feel like loaded dice.” The metaphor mixing is shrewd here — damned no matter how you put it — but the hook is also where the hope is. Chubby and the Gang make you believe, no matter how impossible, that something can be done about this, if it’s done together.
“Lightning Don’t Strike Twice” will be released as a “double A side” seven-inch single with “Life’s Lemons” on May 28th via Partisan Records. Both songs will appear on Chubby and the Gang’s upcoming second album, out later this year.