The punk history books always look towards the Ramones or The Clash, but the one group I always gravitated towards was Wire. Sure, Joe Strummer brought in some Jamaican influences, but I always felt that Wire were the one group that really pushed the boundaries. 30 years and more later, they’re still crafting music we can find vital to our daily listening lives. This new single has the band working with their anxious angular guitar cuts, but the vocals provide a softness that offers the song a strength that very few, if any, bands can master. It’s a tune from their forthcoming self-titled album, which is slated for a April 13th release…and just another reason why music nerds will look to the band as one of the best constants in history.
I won’t lie about my adoration for Wire; they’ve been the soundtrack to my life on and off for over a decade (yes, I was late to the party). But, they’re revisiting some old tunes laying around, and this one sounds so good. This jam has the perfect blend of pop warmth and steady punk pace-making that really indicated the band’s branching out. You’ll find this gem on Change Becomes Us, which is filled with a bunch of tunes the group never got around to recording. Glad they got it to us now; the new record comes out on March 25th.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Wire-Love-Bends.mp3]
Last time out, Fergus and Geronimo seemed intent upon playing themselves into the artier side of the garage rock game, but such attributes will rarely be seen on their newest effort. They set off to make Funky Was the State of Affairs a complete album, and after spending days with this record, their work has revealed a group intent upon making their own way in the indie sphere, compiling bits of proto-punk with hints of Devo and snippets of enhanced messages for the listener.
“No Parties” is the first traditional song, following the album’s opening bit of quirky messaging. While there’s a bent towards the proto-punk of Wire, Fergus and Geronimo are intent early on to reveal their notes to the fans. Themes of mass-consumption and indifference to the greater Earth seem prevalent, and it’s something that only grows stronger as the record progresses. “Roman Tick” soon follows with a brattier rock n’ roll moment, but this time the boys are aiming their guns at the trials and tribulations of modern dating. I like the propulsive drum beat and the vocal delivery on this note, harkening back to one of my favorite periods in music history.
You could probably skip around on some of the tunes, or tidbits, from Funky Was the State of Affairs, but you might miss some of the elements that run through the entirety of the album. For instance, “Roman Numerals/Wiretapping Muzak I” wouldn’t make much sense when listened to by skipping the snipped that precedes it, but when it’s all tied in, it makes for a special moment where listeners can see the dedication to tying everything together. Would “Earthling Women” make any sense if we ignored “Earthling Men?” In truth, probably not, but that’s just one of the special attributes of such an intellectually accomplished effort.
I mean, if you’re looking for solid songs from Fergus and Geronimo, those definitely exist within the woven fabric, and it’s not like you have to search for them. Aside from the previously mentioned tracks, “Drones” is another solid track you’ll find yourself tapping your toes to while you press play. Nice work on the high-hat gives the song it’s rhythm, and the vocal delivery is sort of spoken word, matching the pace of the track itself. This one here is probably one of my favorite songs. Or, maybe you’re looking with something funkier? You’ll find that in “Marky Move,” a track that opens with handclaps and a bobbing bass line. Just to keep things interesting, the group throws in a nice horn solo to coincide with the stomping delivery of the lyrics. These are just a few moments of the clever songwriting present throughout.
Funky Was the State of Affairs is probably one of the first records to be put out there that really sticks to the point. Fergus and Geronimo set out to make a record with thematic elements that hit the listener from start to finish, and their execution is spot on; each song ties into the album somehow, somewhere. It might not be the album for everyday listening, but it’s an album that requires your attention and dedication to completing your experience from start to finish. Should you accept the mission, you’ll be rewarded.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/02-No-Parties.mp3]
Download: Fergus & Geronimo – No Parties [MP3]
Funky Was the State of Affairs is now available from Hardly Art.
It’s hot outside, finally. I’m hanging inside getting my Olympics on and trying to discover new tunes. My favorite hit today comes from DC’s band Dot Dash, a band who win in their Wire reference alone, but they’ve also got the hits to back it all up. Honestly, I think this tune from their most recent record, Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash, has a bit more of a Jam/Futureheads feel to it, but they’ve got some other tracks on their Soundcloud that give way to the reference point. It’s all like a mod/punk blend of goodness that really deserves a lot of respect (and love); I miss people making music like this. Check em out.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/01-The-Color-and-the-Sound.mp3]
Download:Dot Dash – The Color and the Sound [MP3]
You know by now we’re pretty big fans of Hardly Art Records, so we’re always happy to share the new tunes they’re pushing, especially when it’s by a band we love, such as Fergus & Geronimo. We’re getting closer to the August 7th release of the band’s new album, Funky Was the State of Affairs, and I’m really appreciating their state of mind. Their earliest single was a bit of hodge-podge art rock, but this time they’re taking dead aim at second wave punk rock, using grooving bass work, spoken word delivery and a propulsive drum beat. I can’t get the similarities to Wire out of me head, especially in songs like “Three Girl Rhumba,” though that track is more guitar than bass. Regardless, we’re totally jamming this tune out.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/02-No-Parties.mp3]
Download:Fergus & Geronimo – No Parties [MP3]
There’s few people in the blogosphere I truly trust, so I’m always happy when Toby over at Finest Kiss gets a chance to sort through his emails and get me hip to things I might have glanced over. He’s run a bunch of singles today, and my favorite of the batch has to be this new track from Grass Widow. The San Fran trio has self-released a new 7″ with this track Milo Minute. There’s definitely a post-punk pogo to the track, but the harmonies between the ladies provide allow the song to transcend your typical rehash of styles. I get the feeling that this will be spinning around here all week. You can get your copy HERE, which features two covers as the B-Side (Wire and Neo Boys).[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/GrassWidow-MiloMinute.mp3]
Download: Grass Widow – Milo Minute [MP3]
It’s unfortunate that a lot of bands go largely unnoticed, especially when you can see that they would fit in with so much going on, both past and present. Such is the case with Sarandon, who’ve just released their new album, Sarandon’s Age of Reason, in the States via Slumberland Records. Now, this isn’t going to be your normal SR release, mostly because the band have a much more proto-pop-punk feel to them, with the sort of delivery of bands like early Wire. Sarandon’s Age of Reason is full of songs just like this one, and while I think this band would have been an enormous success in say 2002-2003, I still definitely dig the sound they’re kicking out. Trust me, you should love this stuff.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/sarandon-piglet-edit.mp3]
Download: Sarandon – Piglet [MP3]
What can one really say about Wire that hasn’t been said in the last two decades? It seems they’ve ranged all over the place, constantly exploring their sound, pushing themselves in every which direction they choose. You have to give them respect in that regard, and with Red Barked Tree, the group seems to have written one of their best records to date, fulfilling from start to finish.
“Please Take” uses soft-edged guitars to sort of create a gentle angular soundscape, while precision drumming simply just keeps pace. Yet, on the first track it’s the vocals, with lines like “please, take your knife out of my back,” that demonstrate the band giving more focus to the lyrical content…one of the things I felt lacked in some of their more recent efforts.
Of course, there are definitely some proto-punk tracks that give old fans, as well as new ones, something blissful and quick to hold onto with Red Barked Tree. “Now Was” seems to come off a little bit too much, in my eyes, like a fast-paced breathing exercise. Sure, the beat and guitar work kill it, but something about the delivery just didn’t seemed to steady. Still, “Flat Tent” is personally one of the finest songs I think Wire has written to date. You can tell that technology has definitely allowed the band to flourish with their efforts, as the production is spot on here. One thing that both baffles me, and pleases me, is the band’s ability on this track to provide listeners with something so vibrant and energetic and, dare I say, in the now.
Keeping all that in mind, fans and newcomers alike will definitely fine some of the more sonically explorative songs proving their worth. For a band that’s been around, you’re not likely to find guitar lines as sharp as you can find on “Moreover.” Honestly, you can see the direction of the song from the get go, almost marching along, but the vocals and the way the guitar cuts through the song, yet still remains somewhat in the background, just builds the momentum of the track. “Down to This” is really one of my favorite tracks on Red Barked Tree overall. There’s something about the song that doesn’t really resemble Wire for me, yet as I’ve noted, you can’t really define the band, and that’s precisely what makes this song spectacular. There’s dark undertones lurking in the background, and the soft release of the vocals allows you to hang ever so lightly in the air–check out the 3 minute mark.
You’ll find the finest moment on Red Barked Tree waiting for you at the very end with the album’s title track, “Red Barked Tree.” This group seems to manipulate the sound perfectly, creating almost a swaying effect with the way the guitars unfold throughout. In choosing not to rush the track, once again letting it build, the song really begins to take over you, yet it never gives you that complete emotional release. A little restraint in the end–I like that. After all these years you would expect a group to sort of dial-it-in, relying on their fan base to push sales, yet each time you pick up a new Wire record, you’ll be amazed at how current they sound. Such attributes may note mean much to the download/delete generation, but fans of great music will surely find Red Barked Tree full of redeeming qualities.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/04-Two-Minutes.mp3]
Download: Wire – Two Minutes [MP3]