Rat Boy at the Cambridge Junction – Live Review

live reviews "an entertaining release for his lyrical tensions"

In front of a particularly excitable millennial crowd, tonight’s line-up of three up-and-coming paid a great debt to British acts of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Evening-openers Blab haven’t been around for very long, yet have very quickly garnered the attention of Ratboy frontman Jordan Cardy. Their set at the Junction was to be their first gig outside of their native Essex, well and truly seizing upon this momentous opportunity with a tour-de-force performance. Playing tracks from their debut EP Everything is Everyone’s Fault, fuzzy lo-fi guitars, grungy bass lines and menacingly ethereal vocals reigned supreme on tracks such as “Johnny” and “Money”.

Bad Sounds injected the groove into proceedings, following a successful appearance at Glastonbury’s BBC Music Introducing stage earlier this year. Opener “Avalanche” began with a piercing lead guitar riff that opened up a world of Primal Scream-esque beats, dance-inducing bass lines and infectious harmonies. Lyrics such as “Try as I might / I’m losing the fight to get better” give their music a darker sense of realism amidst their lively sound, particularly on a track such as “Wages”. Sampled horns and harmonicas combine with funky clavichords and a synth bass, in a manner reminiscent of Gorillaz’s genre-bending experiments.

Rat Boy’s Jordan Candy poked his head out from back stage once, then twice, before giving us the finger and bounding out onstage. The crowd surfing had already started by this point, and you would have forgiven Rat Boy for being a long established act, such was the crowd’s response to their cheekily anarchic frontman. Watching and listening to Rat Boy isn’t your usual live experience. Whilst they are ostensibly a four-piece “band”, songs such as “Lovers” required a mere setting off of samples, allowing the Jordan and his backing the freedom to go flippin’ mental and all contribute to vocal duties. Each song of theirs has its own unique soundworld, from the reggae/dub inflections of “Turn Around” and “Wasteman” to the harshness of “Knock Knock”, which sounded reminiscent of experimental Blur tracks such as B.L.U.R.E.M.I. Amidst these song-to-song experiments are Jordan’s politically and societally charged lyrics, covering everything from social housing and benefits to the lack of opportunities for young people. Jordan successfully taps into these insecurities under the guise of music that, at its heart, is an entertaining release for his lyrical tensions.

After a chaotic encore of much-loved tracks “Sign On” and “Fake ID”, the playout of Gorillaz’s “Empire Ants” was a fitting response to the evening. These three bands are indebted to British music that cultivated genre-experimentation as a viable model, yet simultaneously each of them was able to display their own unique identity through both their music and stage presence.

NB: Special attention must be paid to Rat Boy’s two go-go dancers, one adorned with a “Fuck Tory Britain” jacket, the other an alien in a jumpsuit. Everyone, take note: go-dancers are always a good idea!

Words from James Proctor

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