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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Rebel seeks to take up residency in Downing Street

Watch out, The Rebel is in residence! Yes, Ben Wallers kindly gave up his Wednesday evenings throughout the gladsome month of June to bring his particular brand of misanthropic country-drone to The Windmill in Brixton. How nice.

But no, I’m not going to wax lyrical about Mr Rebel’s mutant-country sounds. They kind of speak for themselves - check him out on YouTube, you lazy fucker! But nevertheless, having soaked up four Wednesdays’ worth of Wallers-esque misery here are a few things I've learnt:

*Somewhat surprisingly, there seems to be a small coterie of fans who will turn out for The Rebel's gigs, determined to sing along to stuff about how the human race deserves to die (“Die die die human scum”). Actually, it does (deserve to die). This produced the rather incongruous sight of hardcore Rebels doing their best to turn his country-guitar drone, his discordant squirts of electronic noise and his obscure foghorn rants into some kind of party music.

*As befits any decent artist doing a so-called residency, The Rebel varied his sets from week to week, and - maybe more interestingly - seemed to be playing some of the same songs differently from one week to the next.

*His actual appearance was changeable and interesting. One week he was sporting a baseball cap and louche preppy shirt and tie, another a full two-tone green cricket strip (Pakistan’s?). By week three we had what looked like some kind of US army field kit for its Middle East operations, and week four brought us a more “typical” Rebel look - a dark-grey business suit and cowboy hat. My own favourite bit was how he seemed to have smeared his arms and face with gobs of green and orange paint one week. Er, nice.

*He’s serious. And this is no lightweight music. Each week he ground the audience into submission with more than an hour of hardcore noise-country (or whatever the hell it is). I liked most of it, in particular some of the lyrics (“I sat on the stairs with a noose around my neck / Now I'm on the 242 going into town”) (my own bus to work!), or a song about having a gig to do near Hackney Downs station (er, my local train station!). And drones and curdled misanthropy notwithstanding, when The Rebel sang a song about knowing someone when they "had no pubes", it could be genuinely touching and sad.

The Rebel: still hoping for a call-up to Pakistan's one-day side

In the end what’s good about The Rebel is that he sticks to his guns. I remember one of his gigs from about 12 years ago where a little gaggle of beery blokes kept theatrically groaning “What is this shit?” Hmm, as Wallers says in one of his songs, “You only mock the avant garde / Because it’s ... a ... bit ... too ... hard”.

One of the highlights of The Rebel's Brixton extravaganza was a song where he intoned/incanted the name “Sophie” about 40 times in (slightly uneven) succession. Strangely disturbing. And another memorable moment was where this non-crowd-pleaser incited a bizarre singalong of “Get the fucking Tories out” (repeated about 15 times) to the tune of Phibes’ drum ‘n’ bass We Run Tingz (which your humble blogger was DJing through the PA).

And what’s more, the anti-Tory diatribe nearly worked! The Rebel’s GTFTO jungle chant took place on 7 June. Two days later the shell-shocked Conservative government lost its majority. The Rebel had cast his vote …

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