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Rubberbandits: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Jay Richardson

The cult of Irish ‘hib hop’ duo The Rubberbandits has arrived in Edinburgh, with fans pulling plastic shopping bags onto their faces in homage to the enigmatic Blindboy Boat Club and Mr Chrome.

Few were still sporting them by the end however, the reason demonstrated by the semi-naked Chrome, perpetually bending double to sluice the sweat from his skull beneath their venue’s hot lights. A bizarre spectacle yet perfectly in keeping with this distinctive, cartoonishly subversive act, who perform ludicrous, pro-IRA raps and a ballad to a spastic bird of prey.

By rights, the pair ought to be the late-night hit of the Fringe. But they’ve succumbed to the hour-long, theatrical constraints of the festival and shown a lack of confidence by accompanying each song with a video. Made for Channel 4 and Irish broadcaster RTÉ, their slick production values and roguish, You Tube-ready humour distract from the live performance.

There are occasional outbreaks of dancing by the stage but much of the raw, visceral energy of their regular gigs has been forsaken for a show-and-tell introduction. Fair enough, they’re still establishing themselves in the UK. Yet that doesn’t prevent them padding out their set with a Gaelic reprisal of the plaintive track I Want To Fight Your Father. The crotch-grabbing, high-kicking Chrome is noticeably inhibited by his own animated standards, with most in the crowd simply standing and nodding appreciatively.

Attributing their booking in a comedy festival to the heroin consumption of their manager, these would-be gangster rappers from the Limerick ghetto reveal a deceptive intelligence beneath the excess and advocacy of feckless, pill-popping hedonism.

They match the three jokes in an hour they discovered on a Jack Whitehall DVD with gags that include a theological musing on the Higgs Boson, and – courtesy of their DJ Willy O’DJ – reveal the reason David Cameron painted his face black during the London riots, the punchline unrepeatable.

For reasons that are never fully explained, the skulking background figure of O’DJ wears a latex mask of Limerick politician Willie O’Dea, endures violently shaking drug comedowns and is unequivocal in his support for the IRA.

And it’s a perfunctory rendition of Up The Ra that’s the show’s unquestionable highlight, a song so ridiculous in its account of Anglo-Irish history and blinkered in its armchair republicanism that it’s damn near impossible not to chant to. A significant part of its appeal is hearing which celebrities have been recruited to the cause on any given night, the Reverend Ian Paisley joined by Ayrton Senna, Sylvia Plath, Beetlejuice and Captain Planet this evening.

Pure Awkward, the account of a tricky encounter with Ice Cube, the culture clash extending beyond trying to teach the rapper to use a hurley, belies the fact that the duo have actually supported the ex-NWA man. As degenerate West Coast pikeys playing at being serious players, the track Black Man is a danceable plea for somebody, anybody, of Afro-Caribbean origin to add credibility to their crew.

But the joke’s not on them because they’re so much more than a spoof act, with real stage presence and memorable tunes. Spoiling Ivan flirts with paedophilia but is upbeat, throwaway mischief;  Bags of Glue is a call and return anthem to intoxicated, standards-reduced sex, while Horse Outside remains a certifiable classic of belligerent equine pop that they might struggle to ever top.

For all that, there are some truly off-the-wall moments too, the nu-rave stylings of Danny Dyer, pillorying the actor’s East End hardman credentials with its ‘liar, liar!’ chorus, Mr Chrome snarling in aggravated mockney as a hypnotic visual of Dyer’s gurning, severed head revolves behind him.

This nightmare vision presages a hallucinatory encore of Double Dropping Yokes With Éamon De Valera, a rare, equal parts tribute to the former Irish president and the mind-altering potency of ecstasy.

Review date: 16 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon

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