Relaxed Muscle : London Camden Barfly: Friday October 31

Skeleton-suited Darren Spooner (well, okay then Jarvis) casts his sordid Halloween spell

For tonight’s Halloween extravaganza costume is compulsory; unfortunately NME has left its Little Bow Peep outfit at home. Still, Dracula is propping up the bar, there’s a very polite representative from the undead faction queuing for the bogs and there’s a straight outta Salem-type witchy woman looking for a lost quid under fag machine. Outfit of the night, though, belongs to the lanky bloke onstage, little known club singer Darren Spooner. Yes, our Jarv’s a mess of UV tribal face paint and his skinny body’s been sewn into that skeleton suit. Around the corner there’s a club holding a [a]David Bowie[/a] night, but the real [a]David Bowie[/a] tribute’s in here, with Jarvis taking the chameleonic pop star baton and running with it all the way to Hades.

‘Muscle Music’ is as good as any introduction to the Muscle, a compressed history of glam rock picking up some violent lo-fi electro on the way, with Cocker/Spooner lurching round the stage with its grinning pumpkins and giant UV crucifixes hanging from the ceiling. The vibe is very ‘that creepy circus from the League of Gentlemen’. After some entirely incomprehensible chatter through a voice transformer, we get ‘Rod Of Iron’ (“I rule my woman with a rod of iron”), probably not Germaine Greer’s song of the year, but it gets the decked out crowd going quite, quite nuts, with the heaving queue outside on the stairs desperate to get into the packed room. Then, for ‘Sexualized’, the filthy [a]Primal Scream[/a] stomper that never was, Jarvis pogos with the crowd, wowing ’em with his ever-reliable special needs dance moves.

When the end comes, Cocker reaches for his acoustic with a party-pooping caveat: “here’s one more,” he sighs “its a bit of downer”. He’s wrong, though: ‘Mary’ is a spiralling opus delicately nicking bits from The Kink’s ‘Lola’ and his shimmering glory days with Pulp, marking him out as a modern-day King Midas; everything he touches turns to (slightly sleazy) gold. This is hardcore.

Leonie Cooper