It’s hard to pin down the genre of Peelander Z. Their showmanship is so intense that it’s easy to forget to listen closely to the music. But in between high kicks, stage dives, and band member introductions to rival the WWF, they play virtuosic rock music that’s fast and loud.
Is it punk? Blues? Hardcore? Maybe a little of each, but with an attitude that is unwaveringly sunny. They turned One Eyed Jack’s into a child’s birthday party on speed, playing up their Japanese-ness with space-age jumpsuits right out of an anime cartoon (Peelander Yellow! Peelander Pink!) and nonsensical song titles held up on cue cards like YYY and What a Health! They just couldn’t stop bro-ing down with the audience, from the “let’s see how many people we can fit on this stage” dance fests, to their forays out into the crowd to dance with the bartenders (who were themselves dressed like Peelanders). They even invited people up onstage to play their instruments for a minute or so, holding up wacky cards reading “Drummer wanted!” etc. I was especially impressed when Peelander Red played his sick guitar riffs while hanging backwards off the balcony. They didn’t miss a beat through any of it, though if they had, nobody would have noticed through all the glitter and glee.
The Slits perform a self-dubbed “punky reggae,” the current incarnation of which has been a long time in the making. It bears little resemblance to the confused, shrieking, weird, noisy music that made the Slits of the 70s part of the punk rock pantheon, but then again, it was a lot more fun to dance to. What were once alien (and revolutionary) female noises have coalesced into cute bird and monkey sounds, and the reggae influence is much more pronounced, some songs sounding straight out of Jamaica, where front woman Ari Slit happens to have spent much of her time recently. For their 2005 reformation, the remaining original members (Ari Up and Tessa) filled out the group with three talented young women who presumably had to beat out a lot of competition for the coveted title of “Slit.” All this makes for great, dance-y music similar to the old Slits, mostly in spirit. The old songs are heavily updated with pop sensibilities, because they know how to play their instruments now, and also because they now give a fuck about listenability.
Some of the weirdness lingers in old favorites like Typical Girls, one of few songs that struck a good balance between melody and dissonance to begin with, but for me, it was like listening to an entirely different band. While it’s not very punk to give a shit how anyone responds to your music, I’d venture a guess that the Slits themselves have grown tired of the discordant noise they made as teenagers and want to make songs that are musically well-crafted and politically-oriented. Form doesn’t always have to follow function, and I cared less and less about this issue as I drank Jack Daniels with my cohorts and enjoyed the noises entering my ears. At the end of the day, good music is good music, and to try to recreate the Slits of the 70s would have been irrelevant, sad, and pointless. We’ve got enough weird bands carrying the torch now; if the Slits want to make good pop, that’s perfectly fine with me.