From the moment we entered the nostalgic flyer-covered walls of the Beachland Ballroom, it truly felt like stepping into an underground club from the 80s. The groove of DJ Party Sweat’s pulsating vinyl beats set the soundtrack before the ambient pop-noise stylings of Julian Lynch. His solo performance captured the early audience’s attention, with a whispered voice, multi-color guitar, and two briefcases stacked with effects and processors.
With their fourteenth studio album and a career that spans over thirty years, Wire has earned a no-nonsense reputation, especially when it comes to their stage performance. That level of respect for their craft is equally reflected by the devotion of the fans who filled the ballroom floor.
The front of the stage was a guitar and gear lover’s dream: from the massive Eastwood hollow-bodied twelve-string and streamlined Airline guitars in Colin Newman’s arsenal, to the artful pickguard on Graham Lewis’ souped-up bass, and the sea of unique effects pedals arranged in front of each member’s station. Wire’s embrace of technology has been their hallmark, and their growing cache of technological prowess continues to surprise their audiences.
Wire started their set with a pair of uptempo selections from their new self-titled album, Blogging and Joust and Jostle. Both tunes display the quick beats, angular chords, and short length that has become their signature style. The low-tone hook-laden punk sounds just as fresh as their classic album catalog.
Their set continued with more new material peppered with choice picks from recent albums like Stealth of a Stork and early work like Blessed State. The sonic showcases during Sleep-Walking and their final song Harpooned were fantastic to behold. Guitarist Matthew Simms’ technical musicianship and dexterity was on full display, with incredible feedback, synthesized solos, and brilliant electronic textures on his lefty Fender and lap slide guitars.
After a brief departure, they returned for a final encore kicked off with Adore Your Island from Change Becomes Us and closed out the night with more fan favorites, including a rare song from Pink Flag. Wire is known for not doing fan requests, but hopefully they’ll oblige to their great group of devotees and return to Cleveland on their next tour.
When you love a band, you’re blissfully happy when every new album is as good if not better than the last. In that regard, Slow Wave by London quartet It Hugs Back signals a band that keeps getting better while holding onto what makes them great.
Slow Wave boasts alluring half-spoken baritone lead vocals and hypnotic guitars courtesy of songwriter Matthew Simms, also known for his work in Wire since 2010. Graceful keyboards and lush vocal harmonies, echos and responses are provided by Jack Theedom. Paul Michael delivers gentle basslines and drummer Will Blackaby rounds out the relaxed rhythm section. All combine to create layered, dreamy songs you can fall in love with. Or to.
It Hugs Back albums are recorded in Simms’ studio The Record Room, and sound just as good as any studio recording. In their early days, having formed in 2006, It Hugs Back was on Too Pure and 4AD record labels, but their last few albums have been released on their Safe & Sound imprint.
Slow Wave was first recorded live by the full band, then Matthew and Jack added 12-string guitars, mellotron strings, analog synthesizers and vocal overdubs. The songs were then sent through an old copi-cat tape delay.
Whereas past IHB albums like 2013’s Recommended Record featured up-tempo songs you can get a speeding ticket to — with plenty of noise-pop and psychedelic moments and heavy effects — Slow Wave is the prettiest release, more along the lines of Remember off their Inside Your Guitar release. It still sounds like the same band, just more hushed and halcyon.
Slow Wave comes out June 15. Pre-order today on iTunes and get an immediate download of Everything’s OK:
King Tuff and Herzog play the Beachland Ballroom Thursday April 2, 2015.
Show starts at 8:30pm (doors at 7:30pm).
King Tuff (Brattleboro, LA; Sub Pop)
Herzog (Cleveland; Exit Stencil Recordings)
Herzog has quietly been building a devoted following with their relentless take on guitar-driven power-pop. Comparisons to ’90s luminaries such as Built to Spill, Sebadoh, and Dinosaur Jr abound—apt and warranted—but similarities with present-day bands like Diarrhea Planet, Thee Oh Sees and FIDLAR are equally appropriate. Boys is the new album by Cleveland’s Herzog on Exit Stencil Recordings and is by far their most ambitious, cohesive, and sonically diverse album to date.