Entry 0038: An Evening With Wire

Wire2015

LP: Wire by Wire

2015 Pinkflag PF22LP

Favorite Track: Sleep-Walking

Wire is one of my favorite bands. I would not have suspected that when I first heard them on a MOJO magazine CD compilation about post-punk music. The song was “Kidney Bingos”–far from the energetic and noisy punk of the Ramones, Refused, and Devo I was listening to as a Freshman in college. I would later hear “12XU” on the No Thanks CD box set, but it wouldn’t be until I started record collecting and bought Pink Flag on a whim that I would truly experience Wire. This formative experience taught me to buy any and all Wire albums as possible. Last week, Wire put out its fourteenth album, the self-titled Wire, and it is every bit as strong as the unique work in the 70’s and their calm brooding of the 80’s. And, as expected with Wire, the minimalist stark album cover is another winner in a long line of excellent album covers.

While listening to Wire and drink a French Pinot Noir, I came up with the silly idea to rank all the Wire albums I own from Least Favorite But Still Awesome to The Best of the Best…and then pair each album with a bottle of wine. Totally absurd, I realize, but so what? Try going to a concert and not buying a drink.

I own the following Wire albums: Pink Flag LP, Chairs Missing LP, 154 LP, The Ideal Copy LP, A Bell is a Cup…Until It’s Struck LP, Red Barked Tree LP, Change Becomes Us LP, Wire LP, Map Ref. 41N93W single, and the Snakedrill single. I am only going to rank the full-length albums, but will quickly say a little about the two singles I own (and pine for Dot Dash which I keep hoping will show up on eBay). I was lucky to buy Map Ref. The shop owner of Black Plastic showed me a stack of recently sold 45s before he even showed them to his employees. I snatched it immediately. Map Ref has always been one of my favorite Wire songs and it was really special to hear it live when I saw them in Chicago. The B-side should have been on 154. Of their single album covers, Map Ref is one of the best with the green map set against the straight lines of the plane wing and the shaded squiggles of cloud cover. Snakedrill I bought in Yellow Springs, OH and is probably the least listened to album by Wire I own. That is not to say I don’t like it, I just haven’t busted it out in a while. I also forgot to listen to everything before I started this blog post. Oops! I love the big bold font of the cover with the inverted man praying.

Now for the rankings:

The Ideal Copy: This 1987 album was the first return for Wire after the hectic punk explosion of the late 70’s. The band had settled into their unique sound after three albums of exploring punk, post-punk and industrial-electronic soundscapes. If the infrastructure of a building or an automobile could make music, that is the Ideal Copy. At alternate times, the album feels like the band is being purposefully difficult and not pushing the envelope enough. A solid intermediate experience that always has new surprises when I listen to it again, but is not in queue as often as Pink Flag or Chairs Missing. Not recommended for new Wire listeners. Standout track for the moment: The Point of Collapse.

Wine pairing: Dancing Bull Zinfandel — A long album that feels a bit heavy at times needs a strong flavorful red complete with blackberries and pepper. A meal might be required too.

Wire: It seems unfair to rank this new album so low on the list because it is really, really good. And it may move up as I listen to it more; I have only listened to it three times. But its biggest weakness is a lack of diversity of song structures. This works to its advantage on the A-side where the first song “Blogging” made me pay attention to the lyrics as opposed to the music, then each song drifts by in perfect long car ride fashion until the icy despondent “Sleep-Walking” which kicks you awake from the slumber. The B-side tries a similar technique but “Harpooned” isn’t as powerful as “Sleep-Walking”. The last three releases of Wire feel like a trilogy and this one is Return of the Jedi. Great but comes with Ewoks. Standout tracks for the moment: Blogging and Sleep-Walking.

Wine pairing: Menois a Trois Midnight — To counteract the homogeneous songs, this red blend pours a dark purple but tastes light.

A Bell is a Cup…Until it’s Struck: Wire and pop music seem opposite ends of the pole, however, this weird marriage works exceedingly well on this album that I am thunderstruck for words. Although nearly everyone starts with Pink Flag, this may be an alternative starting point. I am glad that Wire did not continue to mellow out and play pop music after this, but I love this oddity. My least favorite album cover of theirs though. Standout track for the moment: Kidney Bingos.

Wine pairing: Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages — A light flowery red that will make your ears dance to the airy drone.

Change Becomes Us: If you are a Wire fan and have not heard this album, drop what you are doing and listen to it. It is the biggest surprise album in their catalog. The majority of the songs are reworkings of some of their stranger live material, but they hit it out of the park. Some of the tracks are just infused with that old punk spirit you have to wonder how many drumsticks Robert Grey went through. The heavy anthem-sounding chords of “Adore Your Island” demands to be put on a mix tape. The album calms down in the end but it is atmospheric like a stretched cloud. One of the best opening tracks. I love the album cover–a photograph of a hallway in the Seattle Public Library, which I hope to visit in August. Standout tracks for the moment: Doubles & Trebles and Adore Your Island.

Wine pairing: Modo Montepulciano — One of my favorite wines. I could not stop smelling it the first time I had it. An unexpected surprise because my nose is usually stuffy.

Red Barked Tree: I debated putting this in third, but realistically 154 is going to survive in music history longer than Red Barked Tree. But I love this album so much. A great diversity of return-to-form hard-hitting fast songs and sonic slow treats for the eardrums. An acoustic guitar shows up and it feels natural. The album cover is a photograph of rows of wine bottles. Holy crap, I should have used that image for this post. Oh well. There is plenty of mystery, nuance, and a pallet of aural colors on this album. Standout tracks for the moment: Clay and Two Minutes.

Wine pairing: Red Guitar Tempranillo — A Spanish red complete with acoustic guitar on the label to give you that spicy feeling in your mouth and lips while sipping each savorful track.

154: Dark, gritty, haunted. The band may have been exhausted from playing 154 live shows and making 3 albums in 3 years, but they made 3 separate masterpieces. Art-rock has never felt like a better a matrix of music, film, and painting. The call and response on “On Returning” and the electronic echo of “40 Versions” showcase what Wire is all about. The album cover plays off of the old Pink Flag album cover redesigned in wavy lines. Standout tracks for the moment: On Returning and 40 Versions.

Wine pairing: The Prisoner Red Table Wine — Dense and full-bodied for another heavy, heady album. Sometimes the album feels like a Franz Kafka nightmare. So does the wine.

Chairs Missing: Musically more interesting than Pink Flag, Chairs Missing is what many bands fail to do: make an amazing and possibly better sophomore album. From the almost non-music repetition of “Heartbeat” to sing-a-long “I Feel Mysterious Today” to the perfect post-punk of “I am the Fly” to the perfect pop song of “Outdoor Miner” to the perfect Pink Flag-like punk of “Another the Letter”, you can’t find a bad song. Required listening to any one who likes punk and alternative music. Standout tracks for the moment: All of them.

Wine pairing: Apothic Dark Red Blend – Pure dark velvet. A variation of a theme as the wine guy said to me once.

Pink Flag: One of my all-time favorite album covers. One of my all-time favorite album purchases as I had not heard more than one song on it and I listened to it twice in a row with head exploded. To sound like a skipping record, one of my favorite opening tracks: a creepy crawling sprawl of sound and danger. Then a 19 second long song. Then a complete different sounding song. And so on and so on. I fist pump and sing during “A Feeling Called Love”. Did I tell you I love Wire? Standout tracks for the moment and forever: All of them.

Wine pairing: Sledgehammer Cabernet Sauvignon — The flavor of your skull bursting.

Advertisements

Entry 0037: Plastic Electricity and the Zag Zig Wanderer

captainbeefheart

LP: Safe as Milk by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band

Unknown Year Buddha Records BDS 5001

Favorite Track: Electricity

 

Call on me Zag Zig Wanderer. There is plastic electricity in the air.

Moonbeams and sunjeans. Shadows undressing at noon. You take the yellow brick road down to the factory with the wrench in your back held heavily in your hairy hands. Baboons so soon. Get a job, get a job, getajob getaslobjob jobslob. The great echo in between you eyes. Needle down. The scratch of vinyl. Static.

Zag Zig Wanderer, you paint autumn with your footsteps, repel summer dropout with your trout mask, free winter with ice zoom sparks, and facilitate spring’s slow crawl from the honey wine ballroom. I’m glad to own a hound’s tooth around my neck. Your hands high voltage through me to you. Stay around and wanna do what? Stay around and wanna do what? North pole star and south pole ocean. Go back tens years ago and get a job…

The bee ‘n’ flower factory rots with oilperfume and matchablerags. Mumble and light, strike and swing. The persimmon arc lingers traces. Grey clouds scream and stampede for the exits, mowing down the footstamped album covers. Zag Zig, stupid smart grin in the corner of his eyes, thumbing his peace pockets. My lips kiss the night above the flames of your artistry. I told you, I told you, I told you boss man, let me boss man let me boss let me be me be be.

Cottonwood in row roads. July like a wide-expanse thigh. Follow the one, two, three, four, five lines. Apple stare and fancy sandals. Call on me Zag Zig Wanderer. Women boogie you, childless and light. Just can’t school, just can’t school. Where there’s plastic, a Zag Zig Wanderer torches, living for the cornhusk smell, the cowboy harvest. We all can’t be fall children bobbing lemons in wine casks.

Record music. Black discs bubbling. Music hissing like cold steam. Charred tape snakes slithering disintegrating tails. Guitar lost and amplified frost. Percussion ghosts snapclapwrap exhaust. Madness record. Madness recording. There is plastic electricity in the air. Suffocate job baboon sparking vinyl stampedes for grey cloud boss man with wide-expanse school eyes.

Mr. Zag Zig Wanderer, you are safe as milk.

Entry 0036: Let the Madness Inside and Settle

electricprunes

LP: I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night by the Electric Prunes

1986 Germany Reprise Records REP 24 033

Favorite Track: Get Me to the World On Time

 

I am obsessed with a board game called Arkham Horror. It is large, complex, contains way too many small pieces to lose, and, what I feel, is enough randomization to make every game unique and interesting. There are 48 investigators to choose from and 24 Ancient Ones to battle. There are 8 expansions that add and change the crazy rules. A massive dining room table is required to hold all the pieces or you have to make good use of counter space, card tables, the floor. Up to 8 people can play cooperatively at the same time, but you can also play alone.

And it is fun to play the game alone.

Inspired by the campaign my friends and I did with Arkham Horror back when we first got it in ’09, when I play alone usually once a month, I mimic the campaign settings we used in the past. With much better results as I won 8 games in a row before I finally had a total party wipe the other day. In brief, the settings are: Investigators can only be used once–if they are ever devoured they are permanently lost; Ancient Ones can only be used once–if the Ancient One wins, they are the Ancient One for the next battle–if the investigators win, they are the investigators for the next battle; Heralds are only used once wheres as Guardians and Institutions can be used twice; no items, curses, blessings, etc. are carried over strictly because it makes set-up easier.

Okay, I can see through my blog into the terrornet and see that everyone has stopped reading. Good. Because I am now going to summarize the 9 games in the campaign so far.

Game One: I start the campaign against one of the most ferocious Ancient Ones: Atlach-Nacha. All gate openings are gate bursts. I choose Mandy the Researcher, Skids the Ex-Convict, “Ashcan” Pete the Drifter, and Lily the Martial Artist. The Its Raining Cats and Dogs environment lasts nearly the whole game costing everyone a movement point. Skids gains an Elder Sign and the Good Work Undone rumor is passed early in the game. However, despite decent gate control and removing 4 doom tokens (one by Elder Sign, one by killing Barnabas Marsh, and two Eltdown Shards) Atlach-Nacha threatens to awaken. The Stars Are Alright Rumor claimed an ally and a third (!) rumor, Cover-Up is eating Clue tokens. The investigators have to chance final combat and go get blessed at the South Church. Skids is eaten by a Moonbeast becoming the first casualty. Zoey the Chef is the new investigator because of her ability to turn Immunities into Resistances. She is given the shotgun. By the skin of my pants with some lucky rolling, Atlach-Nacha is defeated!

Game Two: Bokrug, a personal nemesis, is the subject of occult rituals. Mandy, Pete, Zoey and Lily again set to work obtaining clue tokens and quickly three of the six needed seals are on the board. But Bokrug and the Beings of Ib have a way of luring investigators to sleep. Strange fog stole Mandy to the Strange House in the Mist where she fell at the Wireless Station and went to the hospital. A rift opened and nasty monsters plagued the streets of Arkham. They managed a fourth seal but then the Servitor of the Outer Gods fell on Zoey’s head and left with her soul. Minh the Secretary arrived with an Elder Sign! Some fortunate monster movements later, and the last two seals keeps Bokrug lost in time and space.

Game Three: In evil Innsmouth, the Esoteric Order of Dagon begain chanting for Yog-Sothoth while summoning the herald Father Dagon. The game was a challenge. Monsters were everywhere including the Servitor, hungry for new blood. Minh read tomes to gain clues while Pete took a Bank Loan and hoarded weapons. A key play was made by Minh who used the Silver Key to sneak past the Servitor and a Tcho-Tcho to gain 3 clues. The Mythos deck threw me a rabbit’s foot and the feds and the merchants cleaned out the streets of monsters. Mandy became deputized, took the patrol wagon to the Marsh Refinery and sealed a gate that wiped out some heavy monsters. Pete defaulted on his Loan and lost his Sword of Glory (insert penis joke) but he blessed Minh who walked away with the last seal.

Game Four: Eihort is next. Eihort is sneaky. It doesn’t seem so bad but before you know it you are rolling for the investigators lives. The game started inauspiciously. Feds again clean up the board. Seals happen fast. The fourth and fifth seals are about to be placed when the game throws No One Can Help You Now which prevents gates from being sealed. Mandy goes insane and Pete loses Duke to get pass a Priest of Dagon. Finally, the environment changes and seals 4 and 5 happen. But then no body can get 5 clue tokens. The Deep One Rising track keeps rising until, at last, right before a victory by seals, a Formless Spawn falls into the portal and Eihort awakes triggering Lily’s “This is It!” personal story. Oohh something I have never seen before. Unfortunately for Lily, it will be the last and she dies from too many brood tokens. Minh and Mandy finish off Eihort with Shriveling. A close one!

Game Five: I take a big risk this time and choose Rhan-Tegoth. Possibly (besides Atlach-Nacha) the most unfair Ancient One in the game. I help the investigators by giving them Noden as a Guardian. Kate the Scientist replaces the lost Lily. They work as a seasoned team using Elder Signs, Golden Swords, Flux Stabilizers, and teamwork to put seals on the board despite an early Cultist blood sacrifice to Rhan-Tegoth. Pete is almost devoured evading a Moonbeast. He hides in the Silver Twilight Lodge, joins the membership and immediately owes dues which causes him to go insane and lose his membership. Oh Arkham. A blessed Kate skillfully dodges three monsters, enters the final gate, casts Find Gate and seals for victory.

Game Six: I played this one on a snow day from the library (!!!) while drinking tequila at 11 in the morning. Thematically I choose Ithaqua and boost it up with the Tulzscha herald. Cultists are time bombs on Elder Signs. Mandy, however, kills the starting Cultist with a lucky roll. The bad luck happens fast. Every investigator picks up an injury or a madness card. Kate gets both: an injured arm and necrophobia. A Color From Outer Space gives Kate another necrophobia and she is devoured. Michael the Gangster flies out of the Boarding House with Tommy Gun shooting in a rage. He manages to cut a path to the Curiositee Shoppe and buys an Elder Sign. The bad luck breaks; possibly Noden was watching after all. A strange power flux returns Michael and Minh. Both seal for victory.

Game Seven: After the winter of the last game, I celebrate the spring with Cthugha and Ghroth, a herald I had never used previously. It was a game of monster surges and insanity. Pete goes to the Black Cave, trips, falls into a shaft that takes him to Leng where he meets the King in Yellow and is lost in time and space. Ghroth makes Mandy go insane. Monster surges keep the doom low. Minh gets lost in time and space. Michael becomes insane, attempts to go back to Kingsport, sees a man jump in front of a moving train, and returns to the Asylum. Minh becomes beloved of Bast, one of the rarest things to ever happen in Arkham Horror (!!!!!) Six seals follow.

Game Eight: Ia! Ia! Shub-Niggurath and the Black Goat of the Woods herald. Real nasty. Monsters are everywhere and most of them are extremely hard to kill. Opening possessions also come up weaponless. Fearing a total party kill, I play the investigators completely ballsy. Minh, in particular, has a rough game as a zombie and a ghoul haunt her the whole game. Michael again makes some deft sneaking and buys an Elder Sign. The Science Building is used heavily to get clue tokens. The terror level shoots up and the General Store closes. But then some weird good luck for our investigators: 3 out of 4 Mythos cards have gates prevented from opening by Elder Signs. Pete seals for victory at Unknown Kadath and a classic Arkham Horror game was played.

Game Nine: It was a sunny day. Birds chirped. You would think nothing was amiss in the world. Save for Zhar. Even early in the game, I thought I was going to win: Mandy kills two creatures to become Blessed, Pete buys an Ancient Spear, the perfect weapon to defeat Zhar, and everyone has a physical weapon plus a magical weapon or spell. Four seals happen. But the Southside Strangler kills all the allies. A gate burst happens. Minh becomes lost in time and space and loses valuable clue tokens. Zhar awakes. Minh is grabbed and she dynamites herself to death. Michael scores many successes with his Tommy Gun before a tentacle pulps his head. Blessed Mandy kills Zhar…just for his twin to show up! An Enchanted Tommy Gun does damaged before she is devoured. Pete rallies. Zhar’s Twin is halfway dead. But Pete is exhausted. He dies finally. Zhar will be up against four new investigators when I play again.

Now.

Do you want to play?

 

Entry 0035: Rowdy Music for Rowdy Times

badbrains

LP: Bad Brains by Bad Brains

Unknown Release date ROIR Records RUSLP 8223

Favorite Track: Banned in D.C.

 

I’ve got a case of bad brains. Since the start of April when I have been plagued my migraine symptoms and post-migraine hangovers, my brain has felt empty in creativity. Many times I have sat down to attempt to write a story and I am lucky if I even get a few words out. Of course, this would happen right when I was starting to feel confident again in my writing and was starting to begin that novel that has rattled around in my head for years. I know this will pass. But to say that I am frustrated is an understatement.

I need a spark. This blog started as a spark. One idea is to go back to writing by pen and paper again. I stare at too many computer screens at work already. A vacation is needed outside the city. A place where I can just be calm. Away from noise. Sleeping near the sound of water.

While taking a break from this entry, eating my veggie bagel, I had the record store urge seep into my blood and bones. Something is waiting for me. I must heed the call.

Also, all of you should read the first two Three Musketeers books by Alexandre Dumas. He is the master of adventure and suspense.

I will try to write again tomorrow.