Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Slunky Side - Red Sadistic

Slunky Side
Red Sadistic

Released 2005 on Captain Trip, Japan
Reviewed by arsydd, 04/12/2005ce

Having already mentioned the singer and guitarist out of this band in his capacity as a backing musician for Mick Farren on his last two Japanese tours I think it's about time Nabeji and Slunky Side deserved a mention in their own right!

Slunky Side are a three-piece Japanese hard rock trio, comprised of Nabeji on vocals and guitar, Totoki on bass, and Hijikata on drums. Signed to Ken Matsutani's Captain Trip record label, Red Sadistic is their sixth album and their fifth for Captain Trip. This would tend to suggest that they have been around for sometime - at least six years in fact, but despite this I've previously only heard a few sound clips from their LPs on the Captain Trip website, and I'm therefore not really in a position to properly compare it with any of their previous albums. This is probably just as well as I can approach Red Sadistic afresh, without any preconceptions - well, at least not without too many, as I've been aware of Slunky Side for a little while anyway.

Nabeji, the ultra-cool, be-afroed frontman also acted as second guitarist for another Japanese band called Marble Sheep (Ken Matsutani's own band) when they provided musical backing for Mick Farren on his last two Japanese excursions. Looking not too dissimilar from a young Farren, Nabeji's musical influences are pretty obvious too - the Stooges immediately spring to mind - but it's not all fuzz and wah-wah. Indeed, the first track is a melodic acoustic number aptly named Opening, which is also reprised at the end of the album as Dita. Neatly sandwiching the rest of the album this opening and closing reprisal are in marked contrast to the other tracks, which in turn are as diverse as they are similar - if that makes sense. Put it this way, Nabeji's guitar and vocals are distinctive throughout - and, dare I say it, reminiscent of Jack White at times - yet stylistically the songs range from the aforementioned Stooges influenced numbers such as Liar Germanium through a more modern punk-funk sound, a la White Stripes, to more restrained traditional style rock songs. For example Broken Wish wouldn't be out of place on Californication or By The Way by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers -except the vocals are in Japanese!

In fact all the lyrics on the album are in Japanese, but not unreasonably so, as this is a Japanese only release at the moment, and it's not a problem if you can get over the language barrier, as Nabeji's vocals are sleek and very pleasing to listen to even if you can't understand a single word of them. With song titles like Natarsha, Sejieta Bejieta, Nanimonai Sekai, Wasuretai one can only imagine what Nabeji's singing about (please excuse my ignorance guys!), and even some of the more English sounding song names like Liar Germanium, That Red's Other Side, and Unstable September are somewhat enigmatically titled, and, as such give little indication of what they are alluding to (or maybe I'm just losing something in the translation!) This serves to increase the aura of mystery surrounding them, and makes the album all the more enjoyable for it.

Natarsha is somewhat reminiscent of the Gang of Four, whilst harder punk influences such as the Dead Kennedys come to the fore on Help - at least musically, and in particular the guitar. Elsewhere on the album some of the other harder tracks wear their Stooges influences on their foreheads - Liar Germanium is a brilliant distortion stoked aural assault on the senses that is driven by a relentless rhythm section of thundering bass and pounding drums, whilst Unstable September is a fast and furious instrumental dominated by Nabeji's superbly tight fretwork.

The few sound clips which I've heard of previous material on the Captain Trip website do indicate that the earlier Slunky Side material is more psychedelic / Hendrix style orientated. Sadistic Red, on the other hand, seems to favour a slightly more modern, harder edged rock sound - albeit quite punky - possibly with more commercial potential. That said, on the evidence of most of Sadistic Red it would be fair to say that Slunky Side have made a record which might appeal to freaks and more mainstream audiences alike without compromising their "fuck 'n' loud, fuck 'n' cool, & fuck 'n' crazy" credentials, as exemplified on the CD cover. Don't just take my word for it, check it out for yourself!

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