Next year, when Wire celebrates its 40th birthday as a working band, only they and the Fleshtones may be entitled to lay claim to having played CBGB in its prime and still be intact. Yes, guitarist and guiding spirit Bruce Gilbert left in 2003, but the core of Colin Newman, Robert (Gotobed) Grey, and Graham Lewis have just released their 14th album, the eponymous Wire. It should be no surprise to readers of Tulip Frenzy that it is melodically beautiful, occasionally thrilling, and completely worthwhile. We still haven’t listened to the new Calexico, because Wire is the only band we can listen to this week, on our iPad, in the car, at home before the computer.
Forget the Halley’s Comet reunions of the Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols, and even that ephemeral episode where Magazine thrillingly came back from the dead. Of the British bands who set our ears on fire in the late ’70s, it is only Wire that we have been able to rely on, at least since they reformed in the mid-’80s following their having been dropped by EMI upon the release of their third album, and masterpiece, 154. That album was the most fascinating document of a fascinating era: Wire’s three-chord rhumba having given way to gorgeous Eno-inflected experimentation all within the construct of pop songs, on an album that symbolically closed the punk era they’d helped create by being titled with the address of New York’s preeminent disco.
Since Gilbert left in the early Aughts, his replacement, Matthew Simms, plays with, not against the grain, and sure, something is lost in the process, same as the way Pere Ubu was never the same without Tom Herman, the Stones without Mick Taylor. But on three successive albums, particularly 2011’s Red Barked Tree, and 2013’s Change Becomes Us, the band has touched past glories and updated the story. With Wire, the foursome consolidate much of their gains in an upbeat, occasionally beautiful record that is more than a reminder of what has been.
Colin Newman has always been a schizophrenic vocalist as comfortable playing the Cockney punk as the pretty-voiced pop singer. On the new one, it’s really all the latter, a series of songs for adults to listen to on a late-night car ride when they want to stay awake and engaged but not on edge. We might not rave about it the way we did Change Becomes Us, but we welcome it, and Wire, as old friends, here for the long haul.
All pictures taken by the Leica M and either the 28mm Summicron or 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph.
Since the advent of the iPhone, the Tidal Basin at Cherry Blossom time has taken on a frenzied atmosphere, as crowds press in to have their pictures taken, by others or themselves.
Even when beauties show up for their portraits, it’s hard to believe their friends can get a clean shot without several smartphones in the foreground.
Oh sure, there are faces that can be isolated from the crowd.
And sometimes it’s fun to see people posing amidst the blossom frenzy.
But the advent of Selfie Sticks is a pretty horrifying development, and if you note, even the toddler seems to be taking a selfie.
And then it seems the only way to stand out and have a memorable image taken is to mug for the camera — your own camera.
But as you can tell, it was a lovely night, and after a long winter and a late bloom, the blossoms this year are truly awesome.
The artist and blogger Jane Chardiet (who publishes as Jane Pain) has an interesting interview with Damon McMahon of Amen Dunes. Read it in full if Love, the amazing album McMahon released last year, affected you half as much as it hit me. There’s a lot in there, not to mention his talking about wanting to record an album this year that sounds like Warsaw (early Joy Division) meets a countrified Nirvana.
So occasionally we get carried away, but when we called Houndstooth’s Ride Out The Dark the best first album ever, it should be noted that we qualified it with the proviso that this superlative was good for August 2013, maybe not all time. Yet now comes the gorgeous No News From Home, and clearly our enthusiasm wasn’t misplaced. Houndstooth is a pitch perfect, upbeat American band ready for export to all markets attuned to our nation’s organic sonic glories.
The Portland band is built around two lead instruments, John Gnorski’s fluid guitar and Katie Bernstein’s slightly off-kilter voice. While Gnorski plays with the tasteful precision and lean muscle mass of Mike Campbell, this doesn’t place these provisioners of Americana firmly in the Petty camp — they’re hippies weaving on the stage, suffusing Humboldt County’s best through a bong filled from Barton Springs, not Florida transplants living the life in some canyon above LA. Bernstein has this disarming trick of singing an eighth of a register above the melody, though when it counts, her aim is true.
Houndstooth is that band you want to see play live outdoors as the sun goes down, or to have on your home stereo as you cook a meal for favorite friends you haven’t seen since college. There is nothing that truly commands the foreground in perfect focus while the rear splays out in lovely bokeh; they make no heavy claims. This is pretty summer music, arriving just as spring begins, and we fully expect rockers like “Bliss Boat,” the title track, and “Witching Hour” to be the soundtrack for all our cookouts for months to come.