Dean Rodney, the charismatic singer of The Fish Police. Photograph: The Fish Police
Dean Rodney, the charismatic singer of The Fish Police. Photograph: The Fish Police

‘It’s gonna be a big one,” warns Dean Rodney, lead singer of the Fish Police – and although size is always relative, he isn’t wrong.

Within minutes of taking my seat at Café Oto, the five-piece launches into a song that has the venue on its feet. ‘Coco Butter’ nods to the quirky alternative hip-hop of De La Soul with its blaring 80s funk keyboards, but as a paean to the pale-yellow, edible vegetable fat extracted from the cocoa bean, this is music that inhabits its own unique world.

“Just a little cream, raise your hands up to the skies, it will moisturise,” Rodney implores. Won over, the crowd obeys. Before I know it the chairs are folded away – I’m in danger of becoming an island in a sea of revellers.

There’s no raised stage so audience and band blur into one as the dirty fuzz bass and spoken-word intro to ‘Black Scissors’ kicks in, calling to mind the silliest (and most fun) excesses of George Clinton.

The Fish Police play catchy and uplifting pop songs informed by singer Dean Rodney and guitarist Matt Howe’s autism. The band is part of a nascent music scene, where learning-disabled acts share bills and audiences with those unaffected, that includes Ravioli Me Away, a post-pop-punk trio with a penchant for costume who are the evening’s excellent support act.

Listening to the Fish Police takes you away from the drudgery of the real world into a joyful realm inhabited by cartoons.

Through the course of the night we hear about a Japanese girl who is “always reading and falling asleep in the classroom” and Monica 300, whose defining feature is her blue hair.

Watching the band is pure escapism from everyday drudgery, with Rodney’s deadpan delivery balanced by soulful backing vocals and some very capable musicianship from bassist Charles Stuart and drummer Andrew McClean (both of whom have played in Grace Jones’s backing band, no less).

The biggest crowd pleaser of the night is ‘Chicken Nuggets for Me’, in which Rodney whips the crowd into a frenzy promising “I’m gonna tell you how I like my chicken” before doing just that in the chorus (no spoilers).

Jumping up and down about chicken nuggets is an oddly liberating experience, and one that – like the rest of this band’s extraordinary output – comes highly recommended.

The Fish Police played at Café Oto
on 15 March

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