There's something missing from Steve Gribbin's new CD In Bulk. An audience.

His act has never relied on the subtle. Rather, he belts out his often-angry songs, sweeping the audience up in the strength of the performance.

But this is lost in a sterile studio recording. It's telling that one of the best tracks on the album - the closing I'm Turning Into My Dad - is the only one recorded in front of a live studio audience. Here all the things that make his live shows so strong clearly shine through.

There are other hits on this CD. The Kids Are Killing Me is nothing short of a classic of comedy music, opening track Mischief contains some entertaining ideas, and a paean to teenage abstinence Virgin Baby is simply a string of great gags.

Elsewhere, though, the songs - many of which were created for the regular Cutting Edge shows at the Comedy Store - fall a little flat.

He might get away with pub gags about Viagra or Monica Lewinski in the context of a rowdy club atmosphere, but in the comfort of your own home, these jokes seem leaden.

The political stuff seems to suffer the most. The none-too-delicate descriptions of what Gribbin would like to do to Michael Portillo are merely bilious, rather than funny, and the tribute to New Labour hypocrisy doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know.

However, some of the more delicate songs do very well. The despondency of a rail journey is evoked in Slow Train From Droitwich - performed in the tragic style of an anti-war folk song - and To Be English is actually quite a touching antidote to the Hague version of nationality.

Gribbin also shows his versatility in the styles used, here, from Orange Order marching music to the musical pun of performing a track about the internet in Beach Boys style (It's about surfing. Do you see?).

But the quality also varies, so although this CD certainly has its fair share of hits, it falls short of being a universally strong collection.

Steve Bennett
June 6, 2001

Published: 6 Sep 2006

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