Nachtleben, Frankfurt

Smearing your soul on the wall is the easy bit.

Blood and guts, severed genitalia, they look good up there. It's part of everyone's interior decor now. The room is black, the room is red. This is not the remarkable thing about Ruby. Nor is Lesley Rankine's alleged and sudden conversion to trip-hop. Yup, we're back to the constant suspicion that pop is really a hundred yards dash. Never mind who does it best - who got there first?


Why does she do it, and what does it all mean? The answers are doubtless simple, and will tell you precisely nothing. How does it feel when she does it? That's what you need to know. It feels like greed. It feels like hunger. It feels like resentment impacted to the consistency of lava. It feels like wanting things you don't need. Lesley's blunt face, hovering above the tiny stage, a threat or an accusation. It feels like being crowded and jostled by someone else's thoughts.

A very Nineties thing, claustrophobia. Enforced intimacy seems to be one of the themes of the decade. This club is small enough to forbid even Ruby's four-piece ensemble elbow room, which is exactly as it should be. If there's a thread running through Lesley/Ruby's, uh, work - hard to think of Silverfish as being work in any sense - it's her liking for ramming the truth home, something that's always done best at close quarters.

The truth, as Ruby sees it, is rarely pleasant. It used to be that you were a Total Fucking Asshole, whoever you were. Now, you're an asshole with garnish and an oak leaf cluster. Ruby delivers sophisticated abuse and channelled fury: men are spineless shitbags who should be sent home with their peckers in their pockets; however much you have, it's not enough; there are some sick people out there. These opinions are true enough, as it goes - you can't disprove them, anyhow. Ruby's talent is to make them sound like the truth, to deliver them as complex little parcel bombs. You may be a cocksucker. You probably are. Ruby is one of the few people you would pay for the pleasure of having her tell you so.

Technical details, if you insist on them: pre-recorded backing tracks and sparse live instruments, although my favourite touch is the Ventolin inhaler perched on the keyboard. I like a band that's openly asthmatic, and it especially suits Ruby's suffocated idiom. Perhaps I'm being insensitive here, and Ruby keeps the inhaler there as a matter of life and death, but if you ask me, the only thing missing from Ruby's rickety assaults is the puff of a breathing apparatus. The whole feel of the show is of a near-stifled mind panting and screaming, before settling into a more measured strain of venom. Measured in concentrated teaspoonfuls, that is.

Going to a Ruby gig is the closest most of us will come to milking a snake.

That's close enough.

--- David Bennun




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