Scroobius Pip – Whelan’s, Dublin – 18/11/2011

Scroobius Pip’s always been the feisty type, so when he announced his temporary split with long-time collaborator Dan Le Sac would see him return to his youthful roots in punk it seemed oddly logical. The resulting album, ‘Distraction Pieces’, is a fusion of Pip’s previous, socially-conscious outpourings with layers of rock-out fury, hints of the same old poetic artistry and plenty of piercing witticisms. Live, Pip hits just the right blend of preachy and loveable to stay onside.

Tonight’s show nails that delicate balance between thought-provoking and outrageous, dance-off messiness. Live peaks include ‘Soldier Boy Kill ‘Em’, in which Pip mocks the military’s lower echelons for their pride in blindly following political policy. He hits home again in a vocally wrought, slammingly intense version of heaviest number ‘Let ‘Em Come’, screaming “if the bad times are coming let ‘em come, let the death drum break the slump”, seemingly crying out for the recession’s bullshit-cleansing properties. Pip’s is a harsh yet strangely optimistic assessment of society, one delivered in barbed prose and broken up by stage antics that seem no less opinionated. His request that the crowd “throw cash at him” in payment for illegal downloads is the perfect example – he is half joking, but he really does pick it all up.

Pip’s always going to be divisive, though, and it’s that borderline righteous anger that makes him so compelling. With ‘Distraction Pieces’ delivered in full, we’re also treated to emotive slow numbers, like the stunning self-evaluation of ‘Broken Promises’ and ode to mortality ‘Die Trying’, and they’re startlingly humanizing. In the tenser moments, his slightly shoddy but energetic rock band offer riff-laden backing to Pip turning Whelan’s main room into an enviable sweat pit. Even the mid-set break – a seated performance of early-career classic ‘1000 Words’ – seems like an intense prelude to something truly explosive. The exit – a crowd surfing high-five with the sound man – is a classy closing touch on a show that’s conclusive: hip-hop meets Pip-rock works.

James Hendicott

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