Ruby/Red Snapper: New Trinity, Bristol

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The Independent Online
"That wuz a wee bit o' trip hop fe yuz." Ruby's Lesley Rankine must have been taking the piss. While the pulse of the music might occasionally slow down to a gentle ker-plunk, the industrial beats distressed into ballad-form and Rankine putting out just enough pawky pouting to establish a world-weary air of ennui, the intensity remains pitched at punk-rock level throughout, whatever the tempo. Though their Creation Records album Salt Peter has been re-mixed to within an inch of death by various ambient and dance-friendly faces, it was actually recorded in Seattle and Ruby look like nothing so much as a Roxy-era DIY band. Rankine has the pubescent Linda Blair Exorcist lip-curl off pat, the crop-haired male bassist adopts the studied insouciance of a male Gaye Advert and the (very effective) female keyboard and guitar operative is so intent on her instruments that she appears to do the musical equivalent of moving her lips while reading.

So are Ruby fish or fowl? As it turns out, after a post-gig call to their record company in search of the band members' names, which no one seems to know, they aren't really a band at all, but a "project" - singer Rankine (ex-Silverfish) writing the material with producer Mark Walk, who does not perform. Lyrics, mostly inaudible, nevertheless sound freighted with deep meaning and the paltry crowd hangs on every word. It is, all in all, a delicious recipe, poised somewhere between the rock of indie angst and the hard place of Eraserhead-style noise. Rankine is a convincing frontperson, belting out the songs, swigging from a beer can and achieving - apparently without premeditation - the frightening intensity of the potentially delinquent fourth-former out on a spree, her too-small T-shirt lending her the air of a monstrous child. When they finish, a mite dispiritedly, you begin to sense that something significant has just occurred.

Red Snapper, meanwhile, who are swapping top of the bill with Ruby on the tour, offer a more considered, and considerably less exciting, mixture. Led by a double bass player, they appear to represent the latest episode of the jazz-funk thing, long, circuitous riffs meandering endlessly in a swampy melange of Yakety-Yak sax (from a former Rip Rig and Panic man), slide guitar and techno double-bass lines. Without the benefit of a song- form to snuggle in to, the effect is rather like one endless middle-eight, with the listener's senses anticipating a shift of metre that never comes. Disconcertingly, Red Snapper are really two groups, for when they are joined by a pony-tailed female vocalist for the odd number, the missing song-structure suddenly appears, with great potential, before they're off again down a dark back-alley of Dick Dale garage-grunge and lickety- split dance riffs. But nobody's dancing and the longer they play, the more impressive Ruby seem. Clearly, the song's the thing, project or not.

PHIL JOHNSON

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