Here’s an exercise in mixed signals: Sky Rabbit – in some incarnation – were called Medusa. That’s pretty bad: only students and the terminally dull do Greek names. “Sky Rabbit”, on the other hand, brims with sunny, druggy cool. The boys look scruffy, as if they’ve just fallen out of bed, so you wonder if their guitars will even be in tune: they are, and, what’s more, the rumpled get-up works perfectly – they’re a joy to watch once they get going. The schtick is simple and brilliant: tightly clenched Factory Records-like grooves slapped over recorded dance-floor bleeps, a combination that’s as exciting as it is, in these parts, uncommon. The songwriting is, in contrast, not there.
Sky Rabbit are a guitarist, a bass player, a drummer and an ass. The first three play like life itself: their hearts are manifestly in it, they look terrific, they grin and groove and get off on each other as all the best groups do. By definition, because of the backing tracks, they’re metronomic and precise; by dint of pure talent, they make it look like the easiest thing to do.
This happy state of things runs into its first glitch when you factor in the singer, a human wet-blanket if ever there was one. I’m going to make a leap of faith and presume he’s responsible for the songs too: the two seem part of a package. The formula is this: a ridiculously enjoyable intro which then has deadened, uninterested singing plastered all over it and is, over the course of a few long, navel-gazing minutes, steadily bled of all steam. Cue next song, trotted out just as promisingly, only to meet the same sad end.
Sky Rabbit embody the live band-recording artist divide. Their songs are inevitably built on sturdy, repetitive backing, the sort of thing which goes down brilliantly in clubs. They are also, in spite of the thoughtful arrangements, entirely free of direction: there’s more or less nothing memorable about them one way or another; you’ll not be humming them on the potty first thing in the morning. A gig like this is well worth it, while, ultimately, I remain completely unconvinced about their record.
In the broad scheme of things, ‘Rabbit check more boxes than not. For all their faults, they aren’t lumpen, flabby arse-rock; in this lumpen, flabby, arse-rockey wilderness, that shines out like a beacon of hope. They sound fresh and fun enough to pull quite a lot of their weight; in fact, in a classic case of form-over-content, I can well imagine that enough people will be seduced by what’s there to ignore what’s not.
If they play at a club near you, go watch. You’ll have a bunch of musicians sounding tasty enough to keep you going for the hour or so their set lasts. If your limbs get the better of you, you might even consider breaking out into dance. Later, since you’ll need some actual songcraft to restore the balance, you can pick up a few beers, head home, and drown your miseries in your Nick Drake records. No one will be any the wiser.