by / October 11th, 2011 /

Rubberbandits – Dublin

By now it should be apparent that Limerick’s Rubberbandits are more than just a novelty act and weren’t just one hit wonders with ‘Horse Outside’. You only have to YouTube the prank phone calls they specialised in early in their careers, and it becomes obvious that they are arch situationists, who owe as much to Guy Debord via Malcolm McLaren as they do to Erik B & Rakim via Outkast (or to Podge and Rodge, for that matter). Their social satire is genuinely, sometimes brutally, subversive, brilliantly calculated to get up the noses of middle Ireland. Anybody who can make Joe Duffy look like the crassly patronising prat he so blatantly is, is clearly doing something right. Yet for all that they are usually referred to as a comedy rap duo, they themselves are quick to stress that they are musicians who do comedy rather than comedians who do music, as musical comedy is, invariably, crap.

Not that such weighty considerations will be uppermost in the minds of the predominantly under-25 on-the-lash and on-the-pull audience assembled here for a Saturday night knees-up and hair-down. My Bad Sister are the openers, English girls who are tightly choreographed, and sport a nice line in stripy leotards. They manage an unusual beat-heavy cover of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘When The Sun Goes Down’, and end their set with their single ‘Gypsy Boy’.

A giant digital timer counts down the seconds from five minutes to the zero of Rubberbandits’ arrival before Blindboy Boat Club and Mr Chrome bounce on to the stage in their familiar shell-suited garb and identity concealing plastic shopping bag masks. Willie O’DJ (“he’s not our father, he’s our mother’s boyfriend”) is, as usual, manning the decks. For the next hour and 15 minutes they work through most of their more well-known creations, including ‘Gardai Siochana’ (“gardai, gardai siochana come inside my house and try to take my marijuana”), and ‘Danny Dyer’ (“Liar, liar Danny Dyer, get him in a headlock, who’s the big man now?”). ‘Spastic Hawk’ continues to highlight the boys’ earnest interest in animal rights, while their most recent single, ‘Roisin, I Want To Fight Your Father’, is another heartfelt tale of benighted love. Backing synchronised dancers Ponydance effectively wield hurley stick props here, and are in general a brilliant addition to the live show.

It’s hard to choose, but probably my personal favourite is ‘Up Da Ra’’s skewed version of Irish nationalist history. Interestingly, given recent events and current debate, it has now acquired a double-edged perspective, and can be read not only as satirising armchair republicans, but also those D4 media types who obsess about a certain Presidential candidate’s IRA past, or his party leader’s speculated membership of said organisation. For if anyone, from Sylvia Plath to Paul McGrath can be in the Ra, then why not Gerry Adams? Nelson Mandela, was he in the Ra?

The climax comes via the frankly hilarious ‘Double Dropping Yokes With Eamon De Valera’, whose backing visuals demonstrate that our former president could rave with the best of them, before the inevitable encore of ‘Horse Outside’, as Flaming Lips’ style giant beachballs bounce around the mad-for-it audience, heightening the party atmosphere.

Here’s my theory about those masks: they are a latter-day urban manifestation of the same spirit which imbued outsider figures from Robin Hood to Zorro. Rubberbandits may not be quite robbing from the rich to give to the poor, but they are letting official Ireland know that they can’t have it all their own way. They may be musicians first and foremost, but their lyrical content matters; for while they are a great fun night out, they are also, like all first-rate satirists, deadly serious.

Photos by Alan Moore.
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  • kevin

    I first heard about these guys 5 years ago when I was in college in Limerick [prank phone calls] and I ve been watching their journey closely on facebook .This ladies and gents was the Best gig I ve been to this year. I know they confuse some people but that s the nature of interesting music as far as I’m concerned. The Bandits have an edge that hasn’t been seen since the likes of the Pistols, The Clash, Wu Tang Clan and Public Enemy. I’m not surprised they ve come out of Limerick to be honest and not because it’s a ghetto or a shit hole, it’s quite the contrary in fact, a great little spot full of interesting characters who are either obsessed about sport or music… and not fighting or stabbing each other] but because of the ridiculous [as Blindboy said on Joe Duffy]’bateing that the national media’ has given the place over the years. Well they took that image to the capital on Saturday night and revealed it for the nonsense that it clearly is by banging out Track after track of on the money edgy music that took in countless musical genres along the way from hip hop to dance to electro to punk with a lyrical content that had more twists than and turns than the road to Cappamore. [UL joke] And I was beaming, not just cos I’ve a soft spot for Limerick but because back in the day I always said that the guys doing those pranks were special and it’s always nice to be right.