Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wire, "A Touching Display"



By the time they put out 154 in 1979, Wire had taken a turn from the dour art-punk of Pink Flag to a kind of sinister postpunk. Too abstract and ambiguous to qualify as goth, Wire were one of the few British or American bands at the time to actually make modernist art music instead of just affecting the image. What I love about this track is its mercurial nature--it evokes shifting emotions but presents them as part of a natural continuum. The affects change, but the atmosphere remains the same. In fact, that's true of the whole album, and is one reason it's such a compelling listen. Wire have a light, delicate touch. But get ready for the extremely heavy moment just after 3:25, where they whip out a riff that puts most doom bands to shame.

I'm going to be posting more stuff like this. Goth, deathrock, dark ambient, etc. For those readers who are already into this stuff (Ido comes to mind), some things might already be familiar, but I think for a lot of our readers this will be new and interesting territory.

13 comments:

  1. I've been listening to a lot of this kind of stuff lately, so thanks for posting more of it. Joy Division are also awesome, but I'm fairly certain that everyone in the entire world is familiar with their two albums at this point. Siekiera are probably my current favorite within the whole goth-ish/post-punk meta-genre. They're a bit like Joy Division or Bauhaus, but from 1980s Poland, so they have a really depressive-but-life-loving atmosphere that's kind of hard to put into words. It's like Mad Max post-punk in the same way that stuff like Nuclear Death and Blasphemy is Mad Max metal: quite post-apocalyptic.

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  2. Please post more goth. Goth is so awesome. I wish goth was still cool.

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  3. Actually, I've never listened to WIRE. To be honest, I really could never get into a lot of British bands (other than AMEBIX and RUDIMENTARY PENI), especially the ones that now are grouped as "post-punk" or "goth." Its funny. Just not spastic and screeching enough for me, I guess. I started listening to SWANS and THE BIRTHDAY PARTY as a teen-ager, so I guess that may be the reason.

    If you haven't heard the "Junkyard" LP yet, get on it. Live is even better. "Junk sculpture turning back to junk."

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  4. @Anthony: Joy Division is one of my all-time favorite bands...In fact, I was into that kind of stuff long before I truly got into metal. Always gonna be a short-hair, and proud of it.

    As for Siekiera, thanks for the recommendation, they sound amazing! Good chance I'll eventually blog about them. Joy Division is most definitely pre-apocalyptic anger and despair, so it'd be awesome to hear the post-apocalyptic equivalent. Did you know that shortly before Ian Curtis' suicide, Joy Division and Killing Joke played in eastern bloc Poland together? If I could go back in time and see any show, it'd be from that tour. I bet Sikiera were there.

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  5. @Andthenthetoast: Goth IS becoming cool again, though many new bands prefer to escape the goth stigma by calling it "coldwave" or "dark postpunk". At its best, it's a smart and highly aestheticized reworking of the vintage sounds. Check out Blessure Grave, Bootblacks, and some of the bands on the Wierd Records scene. At its worst, it's a bunch of shitty fashion people making superficial references to goth imagery (Cold Cave and the whole "Witch House" movement).

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  6. @ido: Yeah, you like the noisy shit. I started listening to Birthday Party as a teenager too, and of COURSE I have junkyard. One of the few bands whose albums I have actually bothered to collect on principal. I have to say I wasn't so into Junkyard at first--I'm more into the aesthetic on Prayers on Fire and the Mutiny EP--but I dig it now.

    I have at least one vintage British goth band up my sleeve that you ARE really going to like. They sound pretty UK but definitely qualify as deathrock. I'll give you a shout-out when I post that one!

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  7. (and thanks for the positive response dudes! more goth coming very soon.)

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  8. My introduction to them was actually through Lydia Lunch's "Honeymoon in Red" album. Only given the credits for that album (Nick and Mick both had their names removed), you'd never know an actually band put those songs together. Rowland wrote most of the music, anyway. I first heard THE BIRTHDAY PARTY proper through the "It's Still Living" live vinyl. Remember playing it super loud through an ancient turn-table and actually saying "holy shit!"

    As you can tell from my blog, the work of Rozz Williams is a major part of my life and musical tastes. I really consider his projects to be their own independent animals, rather than as part of "goth" or even "deathrock." The man was a brilliant poet.

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  9. I know this is Christian Death heresy, but wasn't Valor Kand just as important? I mean, Williams is a sick vocalist and comes up with some awesome flashes of imagery, but what strikes me most about those albums is the really creative textural guitarwork. Kand's always playing "outside" but is still completely locked in to what the bassist is doing...the guitar part for each song is almost like a continuously evolving solo.

    Not at all meant as a bash to Rozz, it just seems to me that Kand has been unfairly tagged as this "bad guy" riding Rozz's coattails and cashing in on his legacy, when that legacy really belongs to both of them.

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  10. Not heresy at all. I am personally sick to the gills of all the "Rozz versus Valor" crap that clogs up the internet. People seemed more worried about that, or lamenting Rozz's death (which was too early), than actually appreciating the music. Yes, Valor has definitely been vilified and I think the medium of the internet itself adds extra layers of distortion to the whole thing. I wasn't there and am no expert, but I think the original points of contention were Valor performing and making money off of songs he didn't help write ("Only Theatre of Pain" material, etc.) and acquiring legal rights to the Christian Death name. It's funny that people with no connection to either man seem so indignant about the whole thing, because I've read latter interview with Rozz where he basically said "Well, I used to be really angry about the whole thing but now I'm over it. I've moved on to other stuff." Again, I think the internet perpetuates a lot of misinformation on both sides and the whole thing just sucks life out of both man's legacy.

    When talking about under-rated collaborators, Rick Agnew deserves mention. He co-wrote with Rozz (or even re-wrote, I don't know) all the music for both the entire "Deathwish" and "Only Theatre of Pain" albums. His guitar playing on both is absolutely brilliant. If ANYONE doesn't get enough credit, it's definitely him. The Rozz and Valor albums really were more like Mark 2.0 of the band. It really is a shame that their collaboration ended with "Ashes." That album is so gorgeous, so deep. It also hints that their could have been much, much more.

    Rozz's writings have made a huge impact on me, but a lot of my interest also stems from the fact that I work with literature professionally. I absolutely adore Valor's playing and song-writing on "Catastrophe Ballet" and "Ashes." Its really hard to put into words just how good it is. I'm glad you appreciate his work on those early records. I really can't think of songs that are more perfectly constructed.

    I actually have given some of the post-Rozz CHRISTIAN DEATH work a fair listen. The songs Gitane sings on "Windkissed Pictures" and "Atrocities" are amazing. I personally just really dislike Valor's voice. Something about it just sounds off to me. His lyrics aren't the best, but its tough when the come right after Rozz's work (again, if the man had worked in the world of established poetry and literature he would be considered one of the best in recent English-language literature. His status as an "outsider rock" artist keeps a lot of academics from really looking at his work.)

    I think the biggest thing that detracts from Valor's work may be Valor himself. Valor's Christian Death albums after "Atrocities" just comes off as juvenile to me. I tried to listen to "The Scriptures" and just couldn't. He rants on and on about how much he hates organized religion and how stupid it is. The whole schtick just feels worn out: "Ok, Christianity is stupid. You made your point like forever ago." It's funny: outright blasphemy is hard to pull off well. It's a fine line tread by many metal bands, especially in black metal. The quality of the songwriting on those post-"Atrocities" albums is also much, MUCH lower than earlier works. That is probably the most damning. Did he just run out of inspiration, or hit a creative rut? Gitane leaving the band in the late-'80s was pretty much the death-knell for me.

    I could keep on going, but will stop off here. My comments on this blog tend to be way too long. (I had a really, really good one for the "us nationalist metal" post, but my internet connection had a seizure and it got erased.)

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  11. Ido, I am such a noob, I had assumed Kand was the guitarist on all their shit. So I COMPLETELY agree about Rick Agnew, since I was mostly thinking of the Only Theatre... songwriting and guitar. Whoops! I still have to listen to Catastrophe Ballet and Ashes, I've been listening to O.T.O.P. so much lately, and I've yet to move on. And yeah, from what you say, Kand-era CD sounds stupid.

    As always, I welcome the essay-length comments! TBO is a forum for epic geekery.

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  12. You can get "Ashes" on my blog. I suggest you do that immediately.

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  13. You know what Ido? I literally am, right now.

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