Whether approached as pastiche or homage, cabaret is not an easy genre to pull off convincingly. However, drawing on a fairly diverse spectrum of influences and singing in a mannered enunciation, Rupert Wates does a pretty good job on The Rank Outsiders Ball as he sashays between tango, chanson, samba and swing with a stripped back (but full sounding) jazzy quartet on guitar, double bass, percussion and keyboards.
The spirit of Jacques Brel is, naturally, well in evidence, most notably on the moody, reflective melancholy of Time, but you’ll also hear hints of Aznavour and Gainsbourg as well as a less plummy Peter Skellern and Jake Thakray while The Entertainer is a sort of straight Spike Jones, all filtered through a very English Noel Coward prism.
The waltzing title track sets the theatrical stage with a smoothly louche seediness as he sings how “on the best nights the transvestites come to greet you in the hall while the junkies kick their monkeys”, songs like Snake In The Grass, Burlesque of Love, and the ennui-soaked The Lost Ones hanging out on the darker side of town.
Lyrically articulate and literate, arch yet coy, he’s been likened to Brecht, Gordon Lightfoot and Brian Protheroe alike, though the opening line of Suspend Our Disbelief (A Little Longer) also nods to Yeats, which makes things like the metaphor-laced Make Believe and Murder In Broad Daylight, with its references to self-serving svengalis and the poisoned chalices of fame, well worth properly listening to.
Despite the variety of musical colours, it doesn’t stray too far from the path of its chosen genre, which does lend some of the material a certain sameness. But then, why would you want a glass of Riesling when you’ve a whole case of champagne?
Review by: Mike Davies
Released on Bite Music, out now