Nash the Slash has been an invisible, unacknowledged influence on our modern musical landscape for too long.
Just as its sleeve boldly proclaims “There are no guitars”, there are no records that compare to Children of the Night, the second solo album by from musical innovator James Jeffrey Plewman’s alter ego, Nash the Slash. Plewman’s stint with Toronto-based prog-rock stalwarts FM in the late 70s set the groundwork for the sound and style he would explore as Nash the Slash: theatrical, metal machine noise powered by buzzsaw electronic strings. His music’s foreboding sense of menace and dread matched his over-the-top stage outfit: head-to-toe in bandages bolstered by a pair of dark sunglasses. Nash looked like a cross between The Invisible Man and Max Headroom; like a child’s nightmare come to life.
Fitting, then, that the album opens with “Wolf”, based upon the theme from Peter and the Wolf, the orchestral fairytale by composer Sergei Prokofiev. There’s a tension in the instrumental that no lyrics can improve upon; Nash’s electric-driven strings laying waste to all demons and creatures that emerge from the shadows intent on swallowing him whole. Similarly, he wields his mighty musical axes to (*ahem*) slash and burn through a brilliant cover of the Rolling Stones’ “19th Nervous Breakdown”, thoroughly skewer Deep Purple’s staple “Smoke on the Water” with “Dope on the Water”, and reinvent surf pop with his take on Jan and Dean’s classic “Dead Man’s Curve”.
It’s on his original compositions that Nash the Slash truly realizes his musical vision, though. The title track, “Deep Forest”, and “In a Glass Eye” all follow similar musical templates as “Swing Shift”, but that song has long been held as Children of the Night’s highlight, and deservedly so. It’s a slow-building juggernaut with cold, metallic blood pumping through its mechanical heart lightyears ahead of the techno-prog-rock curve (and would go on to inspire a brilliant interpretation by VIRE for DOMINIONATEDdeux).
Like his bandaged doppelganger, Nash the Slash is an invisible influence on our modern musical landscape. He may have been completely relegated to forgotten history after Plewman’s untimely passing in 2014 if not for Artofact Records’ reissue of the Nash the Slash canon in 2016. In a recurring theme for me this summer, Children of the Night is one of those albums at the periphery of my radar for ages that has been left out of our collective Canadian musical vernacular for far too long.
Let the pendulum swing in Nash’s direction and shift some overdue attention his way.
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