Rat Boy live: best when he’s plundering Norman Cook’s sample bank
Gig review: Rat Boy

Alex Nelson delivers his verdict on the rising star's show at Norwich Waterfront

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Press shot (credit: Phil Smithies)

To the world outside it’s just another evening in Norwich. But for a few hundred lucky fans, the Waterfront becomes the latest venue to host Rat Boy – an artist many are tipping for the big time.

Alex Nelson heads down to see what the fuss is about.

Rat Boy – aka Essex’s 20-year old bedroom prodigy Jordan Cardy – sounds at his best when he’s plundering the sample banks of Norman Cook.

Take tonight’s admittedly incendiary opener ‘Move’. Landing somewhere between the anarcho-twee of The Go! Team and the big-beat bombastics of mid-90s Beastie Boys, it leaves you asking just one question: “Why wasn’t this saved for a barnstorming set closer?”

It hides some particularly clunky attempts at wordplay (“You know I never say the same thing twice/You know I never same the same thing twice”), but it certainly serves its purpose of getting the crowd moving.

The first few tracks of the rising star’s set follow this same, highly danceable path. The at-capacity Norwich Waterfront quickly feels empty towards the back of the room, such is the desire with which the young crowd press towards the stage barriers.

‘Splendid Young Man’ comes on like a Fatboy Slim remix of Mario Kart‘s Koopa Troopa beach, and ‘Wasteman’ bookends the end of the set with a return to the bloopy electonics once again, all parping trumpets and Inspiral Carpets-esque organs.

But it’s the space between that lacks clout, with every song so derivative of Jamie T’s already awkward ska/hip-hop indie mash-up it’s almost laughable.

‘Sign On’ talks of Wetherspoons jobs lost and dole queue humiliation with the kind of conviction reserved for people who’ve actually lived through life’s real hardships, and ‘Fake ID’ dwells on the counterfeit proof-of-age of its title.

Not that Norwich minds, with the whole of the room moving and bouncing to every song, and sporadic crowd surfers almost becoming entangled within the pipe-work of the venue’s low ceiling.

At times Cardy’s own chaos feels carefully controlled; he tosses a decorative cardboard cut-out into the crowd, only for a guitarist to hurriedly rescue it from harm.

But alarms and sirens blare out between tracks to fill the rebellious atmosphere with momentum, and it’s a hell of a lot more exciting than the usual middle-of-the-road picks the annual ‘ones-to-watch’ lists come up with.

With newer singles and fresh material hinting at a dancier direction for Rat Boy, Cardy’s future continues to look very bright indeed. When he’s smashing big-beat style singles he seems on top of his game, and at such a young age can surely only improve from here.

He’s better off dropping that ‘second coming of Jamie T’ act though…

Rat Boy plays the following dates:

May 6: Electric Ballroom, London
May 7: Concorde 2, Brighton

[Main image: Phil Smithies]

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