The 1980s were a strange time in music, a time when less traditional instruments found a temporary home in rock. Sure, Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson played a ton of flute the decade before, but he was (and is) sort of anomaly. Saxophones, synths, violins, and all kinds of other stuff found their ways onto songs in the early part of the decade as the “new wave” scene attracted young people with a more artistic bent who didn’t feel the need to trade their clarinets for guitars just to make the kind of music they wanted to hear.
Which brings us to Nash the Slash, aka Jeff Plewman. I think the beginning of his Wikipedia bio makes the point quite effectively: “…he was known primarily for playing the electric violin and mandolin, as well as the harmonica, keyboards, glockenspiel, and other instruments”. Because nothing rocks like a glockenspiel.
I found this record the other day down in Portland and it looked interesting, the cover giving off that sort of On-U / Gary Clail / Tackhead vibe. Musically, though, it’s couldn’t be more different (well, mostly….). The opening track, “The Million-Year Picnic”, immediately took me back to the end of Revenge of the Nerds (which, perhaps not coincidentally, came out the same year as The Million-Year Picnic) when the nerds perform at the talent show and do a crazy musical number with an electric violin. But following that we’re immediately taken in a different direction, sort of sci-fi-industrial like a bizarre Tangerine-Dream-meets-Gary-Clail with the pro-working-man and anti establishment “Swing Shift (Soixante-Neuf)”, a surprisingly catchy track. And as for the cover of “Dead Man’s Curve”, well, you need to experience that for yourself.