Shock and awe
ELECTRIC EEL SHOCK / SMILEX, OXFORD ZODIAC, 20TH OCTOBER 2009
When Lee Christian admits he's gutted about being "unable to show Electric Eel Shock our A game", you sense there's an apology for us in there too - and, in truth, so there should be. Fair enough, tonight Smilex - who once upon a time released a split single with The Young Knives, dontchaknow - may have been deprived of two members by circumstances beyond their control (illness, I think). But all the same, boiled down to a duo of vocalist Christian and guitarist Tom Sharp, they proceed to inflict on us soul-sappingly dreary acoustic renditions of their scuzz rock repertoire.
If the set serves any purpose, it's as a public service announcement allowing Christian to plug their forthcoming gig at the recently reopened Port Mahon. "Hope you think we're better than the stereo would have been", he ventures optimistically as they wrap up, our collective disinterested murmuring and awkward shuffling delivering a cruelly blunt answer.
Collective disinterested murmuring and awkward shuffling are, it's safe to say, simply not an option when it comes to the headliners. As a friend witnessing Japanese nutjobs Electric Eel Shock for the first time once memorably opined: "This is what happens when you spend two thousand years worshipping your head of state as a god".
Japan seems to be to music what Madagascar is to animals. There, species (or genres) that were once familiar evolve into rather different and unique creatures, but nevertheless still to a degree recognisable. Evidence? Envy's take on Mogwai and post-hardcore. Devo as filtered through the prism of Polysics. The schizoid assault of Melt-Banana. Nissenenmondai's startling convergence of Krautrock, post-rock and disco.
Electric Eel Shock are no different, though it would be a tad misleading to refer to them as the product of any kind of evolution. They're old school, you see, as old school as they come - making a grand entrance to Black Sabbath's 'Iron Man' wearing Ozzy T-shirts, their free hands almost permanently contorted into devil horns, foot-on-monitor stance and machine-gunning move borrowed from Iron Maiden. And that's just guitarist Aki Morimoto and bassist Kazuto Maekawa. Drummer Tomoharu 'Gian' Ito is naked apart from a two-foot-long white sock on his cock, the end of which he occasionally beats on the drums - when he's not battering them with his four sticks, two in each hand, that is...
The songs - called things like 'Suicide Rock 'N' Roll', 'Sex Noise' and 'Bastard' - are loud, joyously stupid, subtle-as-a-brieze-block garage metal romps which make Motley Crue seem sensitive and cerebral, between which Morimoto (who, bizarrely, features alongside Chelsea and England captain John Terry in the latest issue of Angler's Mail - yes, really) sticks his plectrum to his forehead to applaud the audience before addressing us in perfect Engrish. To one person shouting out a request he responds "I'm sorry, I don't speak English", and towards the end of the set asks "You want one more song? YOU WANT ONE MORE SONG?! OK, OK, we play two more song". And off they go again, outtrumping Tap once more.
And they say the Japanese are repressed...