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Colin Newman from Wire

“We are not a punk band” says Wire’s Colin Newman

Wire’s 1977 debut, “Pink Flag”, is widely regarded as one of the landmark British punk albums, released the same years as the Sex Pistols’ and The Clash’s debuts. It may come as a surprise, then, that the band don’t see themselves as punks… and never have.

In an exclusive interview for Eastwood guitars, Wire’s lead singer and guitarist, Colin Newman, said:

“Wire really never were a punk band… we happened to be there at the same time. You could list the Ramones as one of our influences, but we were never interested in just doing that genre.”

Eastwood met with Colin Newman ahead of their gig in Leeds, England, last month. Wire were headlining their own festival, DRILL, which takes places in different countries, including the US, England, Belgium and Germany.

The band is currently promoting their new album, Silver/Lead, that shows they are still musically relevant in 2017 – and, perhaps as Colin suggest, not really “punk”. At least not anymore!

Colin Newman live at Leeds

Colin Newman live at Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club

The article also reveals plans for a Colin Newman signature guitar, based on Colin’s favorite guitar – the Airline MAP, which he fitted with a piezo pickup for acoustic tones.

Since forming in 1976, Wire have become one of the most influential British bands from the late seventies – despite never achieving the same level of success as the Sex Pistols or The Clash. Bands as diverse as R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Franz Ferdinand, Blur, Elastica, My Bloody Valentine, Black Flag and, more recently, Parquet Courts, have been influenced by Colin Newman & co. 

Today, with the addition of new guitarist Matt Simms (who joined in 2010), Wire remain relevant and a superb live band – and the same goes for their records. Albums such as Change becomes Us, Nocturnal Koreans and this year’s Silver/Lead are proof of their continued musical vitality.

LISTEN: Wire’s “Short Elevated Period” (from Silver / Lead, 2017)


Album Cover: 'Kings and Queens' by Blackie and the Rodeo Kings

Album Review: Blackie & the Rodeo Kings – Kings and Queens

Album Cover: 'Kings and Queens' by Blackie and the Rodeo Kings

Album Cover: 'Kings and Queens' by Blackie and the Rodeo Kings

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings – Kings and Queens

What do you get when you take one of best bands to ever come out of Canada and make a record with an all-star cast of singers? Perhaps the best album of the year, that’s what.

Kings & Queens pairs the band with some of their favorite female singers and friends – and some of the biggest names in roots, blues and jazz – Roseanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Pam Tillis, Serena Ryder, Lucinda Williams, Cassandra Wilson, Amy Helm, Janiva Magness, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Sam Phillips, Sara Watkins, Exene Cervenka, Patti Scialfa and Holly Cole. Grammy- and Juno-winning producer Colin Linden (Bruce Cockburn, Tom Wilson, Stephen Fearing, Colin James) took the helm for the new album, and the new recordings have taken the Kings from Nashville to Toronto to New York City to New Orleans, Los Angeles, Woodstock and back again. As the band explains, “No destination is too far for love….”

“Three years in the making, it’s a varied, inspired, and often moving collection that’s never forced or predictable. Hopefully it will provide much deserved American exposure for this talented but thus far under-the-(US) radar male threesome. ****” – American Songwriter

“Kings and Queens is the type of album you can’t help but want to hear. The band decided to try to wrangle a list of female singers they would love to sing with, and hot damn, is that list fantastic.” – Hero Hill

Here are some of the promo photos for the album:

Tom Wilson, guitarist (photo by Brian O'Brien)

Tom Wilson, guitarist (photo by Brian O'Brien)

Colin Linden, guitarist (photo by Brian O'Brien)

Colin Linden, guitarist (photo by Brian O'Brien)

CD Review: Red Barked Tree (WIRE)

Wire: Red Barked Tree

Wire: Red Barked Tree

The 1980’s were hit and miss decade for fans of WIRE, but few argue that 1988’s A BELL IS A CUP was a standout album, and it still stands the test of time. Twenty-two years later, WIRE has done it once again with RED BARKED TREE. From the opening notes of PLEASE TAKE, the album feels like a book-end to that 1988 classic LP. Better still, as the album progresses it opens up to a fresh sounding WIRE – bright and upbeat – borrowing the knowledge from the past yet delivering a vibrant, new, lyrical series of songs. Colin Newman covers the gamut ranging from angst ridden romps (check out the free download TWO MINUTES) to soulful ballads like ADAPT. One surprise track is BAD WORN THING, which manages to capture all-things-good about WIRE – great lyrics, great melody and haunting guitars, topped with the best vocals I’ve heard from Lewis in years. What follows is MOREOVER where the muscle of the band flexes again – a subtle reminder of their ability to kick ass. Red Barked Tree just gets better with every spin. Just when you thought they can’t get better, they do. WIRE should be proud, and all those whom they’ve influenced over the years, get confirmation once again.



Top 10 Things I Listened To/Am Listening To In 2008

No rare guitars or wacky amps in this month’s column, as I haven’t bought anything in a while. I’m still waiting for my own bailout for the bailout we’ve paid for a few times over before I can resume buying strange amps and guitars again. So, without further delay, the obligatory TOP 10 list for the end of the year. You’ll note that most of these things were not released in 2008, nor are there only 10 of them. There are 4 extra and the price is right. Peace, all.

1. Voices in my head.
This is not an album, but actual, annoying, mostly dissonant, sometimes resolving to melody and harmony, but mostly the clang of plates and the murmurs of distant conversations in my head. Mostly medicated, most recently, professionally (and with un-fun and responsible medicines…self-medicating is so much better, buzz-wise, except you could end up homeless, in jail, suicidal and welcoming death…otherwise, it’s the way to go) so. NOT RECOMMENDED. One star out of ten. For “Roberge complete-ists” only, of which there are, at last count and including me, exactly none on the planet. (Note that all of the following were listened to with #1 going on in the background, so your mileage may vary).

2. South San Gabriel’s WELCOME CONVALESCENCE (2003)
This has been in constant rotation since the year of its release. The quieter cousin to the other Will Johnson fronted Denton TX band, Centro-Matic, SSG is an incredible band. There’s not a dud on this album, and most are classics. The kind of album you start making a mixed CD for someone and you realized you, one-by-one, selected the whole damn record. 10 stars out of ten. Go buy it.

3. Arnold Schoenberg: Piano Music.
Paul Jacobs, piano. Zionks, Scoob! This is great.

4. Jay Bennett’s THE MAGNIFICENT DEFEAT (2007)
Bennett shows his studio wizardry that made 1996-2001 Wilco so interesting, while supplying his own beautiful husky voice to a bunch of hook-laden wonderful songs that should please any fan who wants to hear what the bastard child of Elvis Costello and Tom Waits might sound like, given plenty of studio time and a Melotron and a rare dose of melodic genius. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

5. The Gamble’s Quail
I feed outside my back door every morning and sundown. Only for those in the Southwestern US desert. The rest of you, I’ll have to send you a field recording. They sound great.

Full disclosure, he’s a pal. But I don’t hit the “repeat” button just because I love someone—they have to write damn good songs, too, and this little-known gem deserves a wider audience. Martt was the main songwriter in LA’s famous cow punks Tex & the Horseheads along with fronting the criminally under-known Low & Sweet Orchestra, along with handling guitar duties at various times for Thelonious Monster and The Gun Club. TSB is a beautiful record—from the opening Americana of “Fading out of Sight” to the rocking “That’s All Mine” to the beautiful and heartbreakingly honest “Wash”, this album should be on your shelf. Or in your PC. Or your I-pod, or wherever the hell it is you kids keep your music these days.

7. A mix of Roky Erickson
Plucked from various albums from the former front man of the legendary 13th Floor Elevators…While maybe too many of the solo-period originals (“Starry Eyes” “You Don’t Love Me Yet” and “For You” to name but a few) use and re-use the classic doo-wop I-VI-IV-V progression, Roky Erickson’s singling and phrasing makes each of them sound new and different. David Lodge says the job of the writer (and I would extend this to any artist) is to make “the strange familiar and the familiar strange.” Not many (Tom Waits?) can sit alone with an acoustic guitar and make you think you’ve never heard anything like it before. Listen to the phrasing on “For You” for instance and fall in love with the human voice as not just the thing that makes the words in pop music, but as an instrument. The man’s a genius singer.

8. Elliot Smith: “The Ballad of Big Nothing.”
A desert-island track for me, for sure. And while I could name most of his catalog for songs I’d want to keep, this one has all of it—the hooks, the wistful, heart-wrenching vocal phrasing, the off-beat catching up with the rhythm of the lyrics, and the lovely jangle of the droning, melodic guitar. What a song & performance.

9. Some new stuff
John Paul Keith and the 1, 4, 5’s “Looking for a Thrill.” Just a great single. I hit their myspace page once a day to hear that tune. It’s like the Replacements if Dave Edmunds produced them with Nick Lowe smoking behind the board. Check it out!

10. SOME more new music: The Mannequin Men’s FLESH ROT.
The Urinals played a show with these guys at the Bottom of the Hill and they BROUGHT it. One of the best young bands I’ve seen/heard in ages. Bring them to your town…and if they happen to be there, you should check them out. Snotty, tuneful, melodic and aggressive. The way rock should be, or at least one glorious facet of rock, which these guys bring in spades.

11. Why stop at ten?
I’ve been re-visiting Bob Dylan’s best (for me—my Bob Dylan is not your Bob Dylan, after all) period—spanning perhaps the most creative and mind-blowing two years in rick history by a recording artist—where from late 1964 (BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME), early 65 (HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED) to 1966 (BLONDE ON BLONDE), the man was on fire. The outtakes from this period (“Please Crawl Out Your Window”, “Positively 4th Street” and various alternate takes from album cuts) would be better than most people’s albums of that or any time. From the half acoustic/electric of BRINGING IT, to the blistering and sublime high-water mark of HIGHWAY 61, to the mercury tingle of BLONDE, the man did no wrong for a sustained period of creativity and greatness unmatched (even by the Beatles and Stones) in the history of rock. And, shit, “Desolation Row” alone is worth ten desert island discs. Wow.

12. Steve Turner and His Bad Ideas: “A Beautiful Winter.”
File this in the “songs I wish I’d written” category. Just a lovely duet by Turner (of Mudhoney fame) with Holly Golightly…great lyric, melancholy vocal performance and a killer melody. Can’t be beat.

13. The Handsome Family: LIVE AT SCHUBA’S TAVERN
This is, criminally, (and I hope temporarily) out of print, but it’s one of the greatest live albums ever recorded by one of the best bands you’ll ever hear. Husband-wife team Brent and Rennie Sparks have produced some of the most incredible music of the last 15 years and you owe it to yourself to track this (and their other releases) down. Rennie Sparks may be the most creative and interesting lyricist working today (check any number of tracks for astounding evidence, but for starters, “Amelia Earhart Versus the Dancing Bear” “Winnebago Skeletons” “Drunk by Noon” or “Weightless Again”), and the songs are masterfully put together and anchored by Brent’s multi-instrument abilities and lovely deep voice. Imagine if Flannery O’Connor and John Ashbury started a band after listening to the Louvin Brothers and Hank Williams, but got even depressed and more tunefully southern Americana gothic. Actually, you CAN’T imagine how these two sound—go buy some. It’s music so good, you’ll want to annoy strangers on the subway, taking out your earphones and saying, “Damn, listen to this!”

Which seems like a good place to stop—damn, listen to this. Happy 2009, everyone.

Rob Roberge: Looking Busy in 2008

Rob Roberge: Looking Busy in 2008

Under the Radar: The Dream Syndicate

So, we’re all guitar geeks here, right? And this quest for tone we’re all on is (or should be, at any rate) about the music that comes out at the end of the search. So, this month, I wanted to add to my normal column about great guitars and amps full of tone that have slipped under the mondo-expensive collectors’ radars an album worthy of revisiting. Or, for those of you who never heard it in the first place, an album guitar geeks (and lovers of great songs) should own.

The Dream Syndicate: The Days of Wine and Roses

The Dream Syndicate: The Days of Wine and Roses

Released in 1982 the LA band The Dream Syndicate’s first full-length LP (remember those?), The Days of Wine and Roses, has stood the test of time and deserves to be hailed for what it is: a classic album of that most democratic of music forces, Garage Rock. Ever wonder what Bob Dylan might sound like had he fronted a band composed of half of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse and half of The Velvet Underground? Well, strap in, because you’re in for a ride.

The Dream Syndicate’s front man and main songwriter was Steve Wynn (not the hotel dude) – a man still making great records 20+ years later with his current (and great) band Steve Wynn & The Miracle Three. I have seen the Stones, The Allman Brothers, Wilco (Nels Cline and Jeff Tweedy are a fun pair these days…a great night out for guitar lovers, btw) Crazy Horse AND Television live (I told you, I’m a guitar freak), and I have never seen a better live twin guitar attack than Steve Wynn (and fellow guitarist Jason Victor) and the Miracle Three threw down last year in LA. Fueled by a great rhythm section of Dave DeCastro on Bass and Linda Pitmon on drums, this is one of the best live bands going right now.

But, back, for a moment, to the way back machine.

The Days of Wine and Roses ranks as one of the few timeless releases of the 80’s. If you listen to it today, there’s nothing on it that tells you whether it was recorded in 1968 or 1982 or 2006. It’s fresh and primal and raw and melodic and the guitar work is some of the best and most interesting you’ll hear. From the great, murky and melodic slide on “Too Little, Too Late” (think George Harrison on Quaaludes, or if Hubert Sumlin joined the Beatles), to the savage unhinged noise fest of the amazing jam out title track, the work by Wynn and original Syndicate guitarist Karl Precoda is as fresh today as the day it was cut. It’s like if Dylan rocked more, or if Sonic Youth knew how to write catchy songs.

The twin guitars here are majestic in their ability to go from quiet drone to the unbridled passion of the outer edges psycho beauty. If you like guitar, you will LOVE this album. I promise.

It opens with a hypnotic riff on “Tell Me When It’s Over.” The song has a central guitar figure drenched in distortion that drives the song. Next, the adrenaline rush of “Definitely Clean,” which recalls the life-on-the-edge early electric rollicking of Dylan on “Mixed Up Confusion.”

“That’s What You Always Say” starts with a fabulous seductive bass line (played by original bassist Kendra Smith), building with chimey guitars and Dennis Duck’s great drum work (Wynn has been blessed with great drummers – from Duck, who still performs with LA’s Human Hands, to his current Miracle Three timekeeper, the great Linda Pitmon), before a cresting wave of guitars takes over. “Then She Remembers” is something like folk rock pushed to its breaking point.

Next up, the only Precoda-penned number, “Halloween.” With a solo that’s worthy of Tom Verlaine (rarely has the plinky bell-like ring of a Jazzmaster been better used in rock than by Wynn on this record), the song rises and falls in a celebration of dynamics (something any band could and should learn from). As Keith Richards once said, “If music is painting, then silence is the palate. You have to remember the silence.” THIS is a band that understands quiet and loud and melody and dissonance. It’s one of the richest records to ever come out of a barely produced band (and I mean that in the best way). The album is cut largely live, and it drips with the energy of immediacy.

“When You Smile” opens with Wynn singing over a simple two-notes on guitar while Precoda squeals menacing feedback in the background (and, at times, foreground). This contains one of the best guitar solos on the record – a thick, syrupy-sounding Precoda playing a mid 60’s Harmony made Silvertone with infectious melodic style. The murky mix of Precoda’s tone with Wynn’s Fender chime is a delight throughout. The two guitar voices speaking together, rather than the standard, “you play rhythm, I’ll play lead” predictability most two guitar bands fall into. “Until Lately” sounds like an outtake from Nuggets, or maybe an undiscovered tune from Iggy and the Stooges Funhouse.

The haunting, lovely Smith-sung “Too Little Too late” leads us into the last cut – the title track. The song rocks, the band is in top form, and the guitars speak as a punctuation mark to one of the great guitar-led albums from any era.

If you love guitar, and you love great songs (and here I am defining great songs as those written by the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, early Lou Reed, Exile On Main Street period Rolling Stones, Tom Waits and Television), do yourself a favor and pick up this neglected classic of guitar brilliance. And double the favor you do yourself by catching up with the great work Wynn continues to do – he’s one of our great songwriters, and more people should know it. The man rocks. And this is one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

New CD: ‘Antidepressant’ from Lloyd Cole

On Antidepressant, English cult singer/songwriter Lloyd Cole’s fourth album for indie label One Little Indian, the suave, smooth tunesmith shucks off his velvet smoking jacket, pops a pill or two, and lets down his pompadour. Though there’s nothing here that strikes a listener quite as immediately and succinctly as Cole’s 1995 bubble-under pop hit Like Lovers Do, a few spins reveal another gem in the crown of this smart, funny, self-deprecating troubadour.

Lloyd Cole with his son, William

Lloyd Cole with his son, William

Album opener The Young Idealists sets the pace for this record, yawning keyboard riffs and easy acoustic strumming chiming in comfortably alongside needling lines like “… make believe the world was really ours / Still supposing we could make a difference…” Woman In A Bar is a Billy-Joel-meets-Ben-Folds in an Uptown dive kinda ditty, Cole expertly capturing both the undeniable thrill of the mating ritual and the inevitable let-downs inherent in its logical conclusion: “… a few moving parts need to be replaced / My engine starts, but only on Tuesdays”

NYC Sunshine is a pretty, languid slice of afternoon delight nestled amongst these otherwise mostly dim, smoky vignettes, the aural equivalent of finding a bright spot of solar energy splattered all over a shadowy hardwood floor, while I Didn’t See It Coming tumbles in like a lazy lover late to bed, a syrupy, narcotic half-dream that simultaneously recalls the finer solo work of Lou Reed “… you stopped singing along with that rock ‘n roll song on your New York station / I didn’t see it coming “. and the airy, breathable later efforts of his erstwhile bandmate John Cale.

Lloyd Cole: Antidepressant CD

Lloyd Cole: Antidepressant CD

Other standouts here include the bouncy, countrified lope of Everysong, which does a fine job showcasing Cole’s wonderful knack for tossing off easy double-entendres and snappy pop hooks, as evidenced in this line from a character who knows he’s in the song:”So don’t get so excited / He’s not that kind of writer / Chances are we’ll wind up in some Godforsaken cul-de-sac / Not mine / No use to get sad about it, you can’t love everysong ..”. and a drop-dead gorgeous cover of Moby Grape’s I Am Not Willing.

The tone and final message of Antidepressant is best presented in the title cut and album centerpiece, as Lloyd shrugs and lays bare his chemical-laden, scarred ol’ heart with a sloppy, sideways grin: “With my medication I will be fine … I said I’m tryin’ to write my novel / She said, neither am I / By the way, I saw you reading No Depression / You’re doing nothin’, I’ll come over we’ll watch Six Feet Under / And then we’ll maybe get around to your condition …” A smartly understated, delightfully teasing nugget that really does get better with every spin. Highly (sorry) recommended. Check it out at onelittleindian-us.com and note that the record will be out October 10, so mark your calendars.

On Antidepressant, English cult singer/songwriter Lloyd Cole’s fourth album for indie label One Little Indian, the suave, smooth tunesmith shucks off his velvet smoking jacket, pops a pill or two, and lets down his pompadour. Though there’s nothing here that strikes a listener quite as immediately and succinctly as Cole’s 1995 bubble-under pop hit Like Lovers Do, a few spins reveal another gem in the crown of this smart, funny, self-deprecating troubadour.

Post by Brian