If The Hard-Ons are an ill-behaved, potty-mouthed but ultimately good-natured child, then Ray Ahn and Blackie’s other band Nunchukka Superfly is its sinister older sibling, toting a juvenile arrest record as long as your arm — and laughing about it at the same time.
Live at The Tote captures this noise-rock trio, well, live at The Tote. Witnesses to their live shows will testify that Nunchukka are not only just about the loudest band in this country, but also one of the most wilfully obtuse. This is a band, after all, that has in the past been more than happy to treat audiences to their 20-something minute Krautrock epic ‘Fruit Fly Seller’, bookended only by two of their shortest, most abrasive songs. Yeah, obtuse. So you know that a live record from these guys is going to be more like The Melvins’ hour-long noise set Colossus Of Destiny than a Kiss Alive-style trawl through their back catalogue.
Indeed, more than half the tracks on Live at The Tote can’t be found on any of their four studio records. ‘This Is Just A Desk Job For Me’ starts the record in typical Nunchukka fashion (if anything about this band can be said to be typical), with Ahn’s scarifier-heavy bass leading the way through six minutes of pick-scrapes, Joel Ellis’s AmRep-styled drumming and Blackie’s semi-spoken, semi-spat vocals. The other non-album tracks here are just as good as anything the band recorded without an audience of other humans looking on. ‘Kim Beazley’ is a solid minute of full-tilt thrash-punk, ‘Nails’ is a mid-paced psychedelic squall, while ‘The Sniper Who Sang Kiss Songs To Himself’ sees the band delve (as they often do) into more pop-oriented waters (albeit in quite a warped fashion). The album’s closer ‘Afraid’ is a sludgy, filth-caked dirge that’s among the most menacing songs the band has ever written.
Between its high proportion of unreleased tracks and devastating sonic clarity (courtesy of Nao Anzai, knob-twiddler for volume junkies Laura), Live at The Tote is as much an essential piece of the Nunchukka Superfly canon as There Are No Accidents… Just Fuckwits or their monstrous III. It gives a much-needed shot in the arm to that ever dubious institution: the live album.
by Adam D Mills