Ruby : Short-Staffed At The Gene Pool

Former Silverfish bellower's continuing trip-hop adventure

You’d never have seen this coming. Lesley Rankine – one-time dreadlocked Silverfish crustette and Creation’s defining uncommercial solo signing – is a genuine Stateside superstar.

‘Short-Staffed…’ is the two-year-old, lost-in-the-post-trip-hop-smog sequel to 1996’s ‘Salt Peter’ LP – a rumble of dub-u-like thunder which drowned in the coffee-table-house boom in Britain but took on a weird life of its own over the Atlantic.

How weird? Well, Rankine recorded a duet with Tom Jones and became the choice for a new generation by recording a Pepsi ad – a bit like Sean Manic becoming the face of Estée Lauder.

‘Short Staffed…’ veers wildly across the spectrum of post-club pop, coming on all eerie speed garage on ‘Beefheart’ and evolving into vocoder jazz with tickertape clicks on ‘Fuse Again’. Oh yes, and there’s a bit in ‘Fly’ where she scats like Cleo Laine.

Caught at the crossroads between jazzbo-Tricky nastiness and Morcheeba Fiat Uno chic, ‘Short-Staffed…’ is nice enough without ever hammering at the doors of greatness. Short-staffed in the ideas department, then.

Jim Wirth