Open Your Eyes to Smoke - Nunchukka Superfly (Citadel Records)
It’s their fifth studio album and it’s tempting to say the lines have become blurred between Nunchukka Superfly and the Hard-Ons, from which two of its three members are drawn. That’d be convenient but also wrong.
Hard-Ons record seem to run to being either pop-punkers or hardcore rockers with one style dominating over the other. “Open Your Eyes To Smoke” has its share of rockers that let pop creep in around the edges, but it is very much a Nunchukka Superfly record and their most accessible to date.
It’s a re-tooled band with founders Blackie and Ray taking in a prodigy drummer, Julien Crendal, after Joel Ellis was deep-sixed for declining to refer to himself as anything but in the third person. Beats a bizarre gardening accident and the record benefits from the extra swing Crendal brings.
You can cast around for ways to describe Nunchukka Superfly’s music but Blackie (guitar and vocals) nailed it best when he likened it to punks just starting out and trying to play prog rock. Throw in a liberal slice of psychedelia and you’ve got it covered.
Like an image of Justin Bieber meeting an untimely end at the hands of a defiled young fan’s father armed with a baseball bat, “Open Your Eyes To Smoke” is best absorbed in one sweet hit, letting the cries for mercy and other sounds wash all over you. The stylistic U-turns and sudden time changes are toned down on “Open Your Eyes…” but the intensity remains intact.
Most of these songs lock into irresistible grooves and creep around like stalkers, breaking their restraining orders to the sound of furious guitars. No idea if it’s the case but I’d speculate most were built from the ground up, with the rhythm section laying down a feel and the melody lines and guitar parts being slapped over the top. Regardless of what came first, the engine room is the key to “Open Your Eyes…” but the record is very much a sum of its parts.
Blackie doesn’t get mentioned in the same breath as all the usual Aussie guitar suspects but does a wonderful job on this. Whether it’s the lyrical outré of “Whimper Through Your Keyhole” or the peeling lines on the PiL-like “Prince Planet” and “Feel Me Through My Pants” (shades of “Careering”), he’s giving us a master class of where to play and where to leave the gaps. Oh, and a lesson in split personality vocals.
It’s hard to play favourites but the jagged “Synapses” (with its killer drum-work) and nagging riff of “Here Comers Hot Dog Pants” have to come close. The proggy “Basically Means Putting Yourself In Someone Else’s Shoes” is another contender that explores the sort of territory Nunchukka Superfly haven’t ventured into since their debut record.
Their shows in Australia might be criminally under-attended but “Open Your Eyes To Smoke” should encourage old heads to have another listen, and of course open the band to new sets of ears.