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Archive for the ‘Wire’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: WIRE-Tiny Desk Concert #976 (May 27, 2020).

I feel that it is something of a failure on my part that I never really got into Wire.

Although I don’t know why, I will never forget that their 1988 album is called A Bell is a Cup … Until It is Struck (I was working at a radio station when it came out and “Kidney Bingos” was a minor hit).  But I never really followed through with them.

Bob Boilen, on the other hand, is a huge fan.

For me, it was beyond surreal to watch Wire performing at my desk, in broad daylight, in 2020. I spent many an evening over the past 40 years, listening to their original, artful bursts of noise and imagery, seeing them in dark clubs in the ’80s and beyond. From the time I first heard them in 1977, few bands have encapsulated my musical aesthetics like Wire.

There have been some hiatuses for Wire since their debut in 1977 (from 1981-1985 and 1993-1999) but each time they reunited, it was the original four person lineup.

It was only ten years ago that guitarist Bruce Gilbert officially left the band.  But at the Tiny Desk,

there they were, with three original bandmates: Colin Newman, singing his enigmatic poetry, and those driving rhythms of Graham Lewis on bass and Robert Grey (aka Robert Gotobed) on drums. Matthew Simms was the “new” bandmate, having now played with the band for the past 10 years.

Thankfully, Wire plays four songs (they still only play for 15 minutes and they are Bob’s favorite band).

What’s most remarkable is how the sound of songs such as “Cactused” from their 17th album, Mind Hive, sit so well next to “French Film Blurred” from their 1978 album — and one of my favorite records ever made — Chairs Missing.

“Cactused” has a cool chugging rhythm and bass.  Newman sings in his deadpan, almost spoken delivery.  Newman plays the little guitar leads while.  It stops on a dime.  This band is tight.

“Be Like Them” is also new.  I love this song.  It’s got a slinky guitar riff which is  accompanied by three loud thumps (drums and bass) to accent the verses.  Simms plays a really cool noise-filled “solo” (really just some noisy chords) in the middle of the song.  Newman is once again kind of deadpan reciting his lyrics.

“French Film Blurred” is from 1978. It’s got an unusual riff and Newman sings a bit more than speaks, although he is still restrained.  They make great use of the two guitars with Simms adding all kinds of sounds while Newman plays the main melody.

Everyone tunes and then Newman says they’re going to play “an obscurity from the 80s that we revived into the current set.”  “The Offer” is from 1989’s ITABA.  It’s slower and rather quiet.  There’s even some gently picked guitar parts from Simms. But as it nears the end the song gets louder and louder with Sims adding a distorted and a flanging guitar.   The songs seems like it’s over, but while everything is ringing out, Newman pays a few ending chords.

Try and imagine your favorite artist today, playing a concert in someone’s office in 2062 and still having an emotional impact with extraordinary new songs. As I said, it’s beyond surreal and genuinely thrilling.

Wire played their Washington DC show on March 9, so that’s probably when this concert occurred (and therefore MUST have been the final Tiny Desk Concert before the quarantine].  Wire were playing Philly on March 10.  I had considered going but I had a lot of other shows to see in March so I didn’t want to overload.

This set was so good, I wish I had gone to see them. Maybe they’ll be back in 2021.

[READ: May 20, 2020] Five Years #10

This is the final issue of Five Years (I think).

It was supposed to be released during the Coronavirus epidemic.  But Abstract Studios offered a special cover (so I don’t know what the proper cover looks like yet).

NEWS: We’re going to release a tiny print run of Five Years #10 for subscribers, & anyone who wants one really. This is for those reading the single issues who don’t want to wait months to read the final chapter. If not a subscriber, you can pre-order a copy in our store now. Just CLICK HERE.

The rumor is Diamond Comics will reopen this summer and we will be able to stagger release issue 9 and 10 to the general public then. 9 is sitting in their warehouse, waiting like a rodeo bull. For the small number hooked on the single issues, we feel you deserve 10 now, because without your monthly support the series couldn’t have happened at all.

So I bought the limited edition cover because I wanted to finish the series.  I didn’t think he could possibly end the series with this issue as it seemed like there was too much up in the air. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WIRE-Kidney Bingos (1988).

Wire’s first three albums are punk and post-pink classics.  So classic that a Britpop band ripped off one of their songs to make an even bigger hit.  (I rather like Elastica too).

After their hiatus in the early 1980s, they returned with a new sound.  Like King Crimson only with fewer notes.

Their second post-hiatus album A Bell is a Cup even had a single, “Kidney Bingos.”

This song is remarkably far from their early punk sound. It’s almost as if on their first albums, their guitars only had the low strings,  And on this one, they only have the high strings.

The guitars on this song are gentle and jangly.  The bass is pretty similar–nice and deep with a great resonance, although the tempo is much slower and more chill.

The chorus is a really catchy bit if pop fun, even if for 30 years I had no idea that he was saying

Money spines paper lung kidney bingos organ fun

which makes as much sense as what I thought he was saying.

The end of the song throws in some synths and a wordless singalong that shows a real depth to Newman’s voice.

[READ: June 29, 2019] “Pastoralia”

I was sure I had read this story before.  But it turns out I’ve had his collection Pastoralia on my “too read” list but had never actually read it.  In the collection, this story is almost 70 pages.  It’s pretty long in the New Yorker, but i do have to wonder if it is an excerpt as there’s so much that is unexplained.

This story is set in what I think of as the Saunders future.  There’s no ProperName objects as there usually are.  But this future has a lot of the mildly dystopian qualities that Saunders tends to put in his stories

This one includes an exhibit where humans act out historical scenarios in a museum of sorts (the details are never given).

The narrator’s name is never given.  Over the course of a few pages we determine that he is a caveman in an exhibit.  Every day he is supposed to “eat grubs,” “see” a herd of animals and not speak English.  He has a “wife,” Janet.  She is not his real wife, he has a real wife and children.  In fact he doesn’t especially like Janet. She tends to speak English a lot and disregards most other work protocols.

In many respects it doesn’t matter because hardly anyone comes into the museum.  But they are doing a job and they do have supervisors.

When the light dims as if it were night time they each go to their separate personal quarters where they have such modern amenities as a fax machine (this was written in 2000 so that’s not a goof, I don’t think).  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 6, 2018] Spoon

I have been a fan of Spoon for years.  I’ve never seen them before, including when they played at XPN Fest a few years ago.  Since the song “Hot Thoughts” from the new album is so damn catchy, it seemed like a great time to see them live (especially at TLA).

It took the band quite a while to get going after Sneaks went off.  And I gather they were having technical problems throughout the night.  But it sounded fantastic out by us.  Brit Daniel said he’d tell us the story later in the show.

They played a great mix of new songs and old songs.  Daniel’s voice sounded perfect and he was full of energy–interacting with the audience–high fiving, making faces–and jumping all around the stage.

On my side of the stage I was just a few feet from bassist Rob Pope.  I enjoyed the way Pope came really close to the edge of the stage a number of times, practically leaning out above us.   Just behind him was drummer Jim Eno.

The other side of the stage, obscured by fog for the first half of the show was Gerardo Larios on keys and guitar and Alex Fischel on guitar and keys and all manner of sounds.  He opened the show with some interesting noises while shrouded in fog.  As the blue lights zoomed around the rest of the band came out and they started “Do I Have to Talk You Into It.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: fIREHOSE-Live Totem Pole EP (1992).

Listening to Superchunk’s “Slack Motherfucker” reminded me that I knew a live version from somewhere else.  And, with a little help from the web, I remembered it was here.

fIREHOSE is Mike Watt’s post-Minutemen band, and they are a lot of fun (and even managed to get a major label deal before breaking up.  This (apparently really hard to find) EP is a great, weird collection of covers: Blue Oyster Cult’s “The Red and the Black”; Public Enemy’s “Sophisticated Bitch” (yes you read that right); The Butthole Surfer’s “Revolution (Part 2)” (with the repeated coda of “Garry Shandling, Garry Shandling”; Superchunk’s “Slack Motherfucker” and Wire’s “Mannequin”.  There’s two Watt-written songs, “What Gets Heard” (from fROMOHIO) and “Makin’ the Freeway” (from if’n).

The covers are universally solid.  The band sounds punky and kind of sloppy and fun (not so terribly virtuosic on the solos), and they bring an amazing vitality to these songs.  The Public Enemy song is probably the biggest surprise as it sounds fantastic in this rocking band set up (although the original rocks pretty hard too, frankly).  And “Slack” is possibly even faster and punkier than the original (it sounds awesome here).  Interestingly to me, “Mannequin” sounds completely like an SST track (which if you know the label will make sense and if you don’t, it won’t) even though it’s a Wire song (and not released on SST).

I’d always known that Watt was a mean bassist, but man, he is wild on this disc.  The runs and fills he puts in all over the disc are great.  “What Gets Heard” has some great slap bass and “Freeway” is one of Watt’s weird and delightful spoken rants with fantastic bass fills.

fIREHOSE may not have always been brilliant, but they had moments of awesomeness.

[READ: October 16, 2010] “The Failure”

This story is part of the 1999 New Yorkers‘ 20 Under 40 collection (it’s the first story that was not included in that issue).  Its also the first story by Franzen that I have read.

It’s tempting, since I’m in a David Foster Wallace mood, to think that DFW was some kind of inspiration for Franzen (they were friends, after all).  The opening of the story talks a bit about cruise ships.  And Wallace’s “Shipping Out” was published in Harper’s just a couple of years before this.  Having said that, aside from the fact that the protagonist’s parents are taking a cruise (and there’s some cruise-mocking), the story doesn’t have much else in common with the piece, so we’ll get past that.

The story was excerpted in the main 20 Under 40 issue (the first few paragraphs), and I was intrigued, although the excerpt didn’t really indicate where the story would go at all.

Chip is a midwestern guy who has moved to New York City. He has lost a teaching job (for a very bad reason) and is now trying to survive as a writer.  His parents are in town briefly because they are taking a cruise out of New York.  And as he updates his mother and father on what he’s been up to, the list of minor failures (the ones he admits to and doesn’t) grows and grows.  And it’s clear from his mother’s talk that she’s more than a little disappointed in his reality. (more…)

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