The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain: The Return of Joe Rubini and the Spooks

Joe Rubini’s return makes JAKE ARNOTT pine for some hard narcotics.

Blues Corpus Playroom Drugs george w b russell haunted man and the ghost's bargain hipster Joe Rubini Music Sex spooks the stinking bishop Theatre

Corpus Playroom, 18th June, 9.30pm, £5-6

[rating: 2/5]

Joe Rubini is not as good as he thinks he is. Not being very good is sometimes excusable, but when a person self-consciously aims at a certain look and sound with an air of conceited assuredness and entirely misses, it becomes very hard to forgive them, because ripping the piss out of such a person is just so much more fun.

His two support acts set a good standard and a great atmosphere, earning the night its second star. A burning incense stick, warm lighting from a glowing orange crystal, and a stageful of arcane but aesthetically-pleasing crap made for a relaxed ambience of cool people about to enjoy an evening full of cool things.

A thoughtful DJ set from ‘The Stinking Bishop’ opened the night by laying down some laid-back beats for our consideration. In a venue that gives little opportunity to Get Up Dance Do Your Thing, he explored sex, drugs and dancing with a playful irony.

George W.B. Russell’s blues guitar set was heartfelt and persuasive, but suffered from the problem which was to haunt Joe Rubini’s headline act – it didn’t quite feel like his music. He takes basic blues scales and hammers out some excitingly impulsive variations, on a very pretty electric-acoustic guitar-cum-colander, with typical blues lyrics (killing people, loving people, or both at once) laid over the top. Winning and well-handled, if still somewhat hollow.

Given the chilled-out hipster vibe, I felt with the assistance of some hard drugs the whole experience would have been incredible – even Rubini’s monotonously pretentious ‘ghostly’ set. It was certainly enjoyed by one enthusiastic spectator, whose raucous responses betrayed either her extravagant substance abuse or her desperate desire to get into Rubini’s drainpipes, which had barely enough room for the singer himself.

Properly acid-addled, I could have sat back and let the meaningless sepia surrealism projected onto the wall wash over me while Rubini pseudo-rhythmically attacked his guitar and murmured New York Beats-wannabe incomprehensibilities about Clapham and how great Jack the Ripper was into his oh-so-retro 50’s microphone while his oh-so-vintage reel-to-reel tape player hissed threateningly in the background. I would probably have thought he was deep, as Rubini no doubt suspects himself.

To be fair, I don’t think I’m his ideal audience. Someone sporting cuban heels and a too-small leather jacket, singing in a poor American accent about being from London, has little to no chance of endearing themselves to me (unless they play good music or have lyrics I can hear). This entire evening would have been better placed in a tent at a May Ball, ideally with some complimentary hallucinogens.

That said, if you’re the sort of hipster who smokes obscure cigarettes and wears a trilby, I hate you, but you might enjoy this if he comes back to town again sometime.