As the opening act of a hungover Sunday at Oxegen, Rubberbandits performed a set entitled ‘Sunday Mass’, featuring a Bishop and a choirboy. On a recent trip to the UK, they hired extra security and tried to get a tent full of English kids to sing songs about the IRA. To be fair, they succeeded, too, though in part because most of the youngsters at Reading wouldn’t understand what the ‘Ra’ is straight off. Hell, when AU interviewed the duo on their upcoming album, we thought we got off fairly lightly when they just answered the questions in character; they have been known to use security to push journos against a wall for the duration of an interview just for the laughs. Any suggestion that the comedy hip-hop pairing were about to rest on their love it/hate it single ‘Horse Outside’ have long since been disregarded, and tonight’s Olympia show – their largest headliner to date – backs up recent release ‘Spastic Hawk’ in showing that the fresh ideas are still flowing freely.
Tonight’s set opener is a silent, five-minute countdown intro on the big screen, polished off with clips from that debate on Joe Duffy, featuring Blindboy Boatclub explaining the concept of a sense of humour, and a blasé voiceover repeatedly intoning “It’s the Rubberbandits”. When the pair do finally arrive on the Olympia stage, they apologise for using bad words like ‘fanny’ and ‘willy’, and launch into a set that’s surprisingly free of spoken-word comedy.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some fiercely, ridiculously hilarious moments here. Quite a few songs feature dancers wrapped in police tape or making brilliantly inappropriate horse-themed gestures. One of the backing videos shows a hefty stream of pills falling from the sky as the duo rave about their love of double dropping, while another sees a cartoon fish land on a pane of glass and abuse the lads over their “fake working class Limerick accents”. Willie O’DJ even pitches a tent in the middle of the stage in support of the Occupy Dame Street protest half way through the set (“what would you know about politics, Willie?”), while Blindboy pitches an entirely different kind of tent (fortunately it’s a bit of finger-fakery) during a song about getting it on with Ice Cube after a little more drug-themed indulgence.
This is about far more than just the comedy aspect, though: seeing Rubberbandits live is to realise how talented they actually are musically, too. Behind all the silly satire that even sees a “local Limerick act” play for about 30 seconds due to a “promise made on acid”, it actually takes considerable talent to perform in character while producing a selection of tracks with credible enough beats and twisting, rhyming lyrics. Sure, they’re unlikely to win any awards for their music, especially as long as – vocals aside – it’s essentially all backing track, but it’s very listenable, perhaps even to the point that the album will be worth owning for more than just comedy value. There’s even a nice variety seeping in amongst it all.
Tonight, with ‘Horse Outside’ and new track ‘Spastic Hawk’ forming a flappy, ridiculous encore after a set laden with comedy classics like ‘I Wanna Fight Your Father’, ‘Bags Of Glue’ and the hilariously insulting ‘Gardai Siochana’, there’s a blasé, confident feel to the set. Limerick-ish accents and all, they might even make sense to those who drop in on their upcoming UK tour. Perhaps international greatness beckons after all. James Hendicott
As published in AU Magazine, October 2011 (link).