"Look Good, Feel Great!" E.P. - The Rrrrrs (2007)
There’s no doubt that The Rrrrrs are rough around the edges: their live shows are unruly, chaotic affairs which regularly degenerate into playfighting and complete musical meltdown. However, I think they’re much cleverer than they come across - there is a calculated shambolicism to their performances which suggests an astute sense of mischief at play (guitarist Rowan Gifford in particular is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist whose abilities are better showcased in jazz quintet Jaffa Rose). Above all else, they have a palpable onstage chemistry - perhaps the best comparison to be drawn is with The White Stripes, whose considerable wattage is generated not through total cohesion but a dynamic personal interplay. Rather than simply being content to exist in a mire of wilfully sloppy pub-rock, I would argue The Rrrrrs pull the ultimate bait-and-switch on their audience: they can play – they just choose not to.
Much of your tolerance for the band will undoubtedly hinge on whether you’re able to hack the antics of their eccentric frontwoman Sharliza Rahman. Last time I saw them play, her escapades involved playfully kicking her bassist in the nuts for playing in the wrong key, and mock-fellating a mic-stand. You’d think that she’d be different offstage. She’s not. She’s mad as a box of frogs.
She’s also a true star-in-the-making. Charisma, the X-factor, star power, the elusive ‘it’ - call it what you will, this girl has it in spades. Love or hate her, there’s no denying Sharliza’s distinctive presence: on record she sounds like a sexed-up snake-charmer, supplementing her oddly robotic helium-drone with the whooping vocal tics of Karen O. Like fellow rabble-rousers The Moldy Peaches, the band’s attitude is pure punk-rock, shot through with a joyous don’t-give-a-fuck mentality. Their songs are frequently daft but achingly bittersweet; stylistically they remind me a little of The Ramones, tacking what are essentially old-fashioned pop hooks onto a contemporary mode of delivery (in this case, a raucous hybrid of The Noisettes and The Detroit Cobras).
Their recent demo Look Good, Feel Great! serves as a fairly accurate example of the divisive approach which famously resulted in a journo friend of mine describing them as “jaw-clenchingly annoying” (a sentiment which bassist Les Pemberton promptly appropriated as his sign-off on internet forums). Opener Is That Your Underwear on the Floor? is the band’s finest number to date, supplementing its early-Cure guitar tones with dizzying harmonies and glimmering steel-drums. By contrast, the maddening My Valentino will either make you want to bop along like a cunt or tear your hair out (I’m still undecided, though I’ll probably give them the benefit of the doubt at this stage). Always a highlight of their live set, closing track Money is the most diverse and interesting of the three, zipping from style to style with such barking enthusiasm that it sounds like Joy Division one moment and Minor Threat the next. Keep listening at the end and you also get a re-recorded version of their signature tune - the aptly-titled I Feel Great - on which we get an indication of the true heart that beats behind their colourful showmanship when Sharliza coos, with total sincerity: “I feel great, you are wonderful, I’m happy I’m with you / Over land, under water, in the sky and outer-space”.
Be it through their kinship with upcoming alcopoplets The Ripps or simply their unflappable high spirits in the face of such hostility, I have no doubt that The Rrrrrs will piss everyone off by being the next band in the area to land a record deal and start bothering the underground press. In all honesty, this EP doesn’t particularly do them justice: you really have to see them live to appreciate the essence of the band. They’re like a direct injection of sherbert into the bloodstream, a goofy rock’n’roll cartoon designed to leave you smiling from ear-to-ear. The Rrrrrs are everything pop music should be. They are Prozac in musical form.