Saturday, September 06, 2008

Everything Turns Gray... (MRR #305)

Except for the singer for Agent Orange's hair. Do you think he dyes it? He must be getting on a bit. Agent Orange was my favorite band for a while. They were among the first American punk bands I was exposed to, thanks to their skate-rock credentials. I had a skater friend called Campbell who subscribed to Thrasher and had an auntie that lived in America and would send him records and tapes of bands he read about in the Pus Zone. Thanks to this relative, Campbell was also one of the few people I knew who wore actual Vans shoes, not just the copy ones that only cost a fiver from the cheap shop and fell apart after one attempted ollie.
I'd lie on my bunk bed with the rain battering the window, blasting my Agent Orange tapes and reading Campbell's old Thrashers or well-thumbed copies of Freestylin' (the BMX magazine that Spike Jonze worked on before becoming a famous film and music video director). Agent Orange's beach-baked surf-punk sound promised the perfect, endless bitchin' summer that I was sure existed on the other side of the world. Sunset pool carving sessions with the Bones Brigade, Miami hoppers on Venice Beach with Woody Itson and Martin Aparijo, or airing out of the huge bowl at Pipeline Skatepark with Eddie Fiola and Brian Blyther. Agent Orange were my imagined soundtrack for all my teenage California dreams, as well as appearing on the soundtrack of many 80s bike and skate videos. They were also my introduction to surf music, leading me to seek out such surf classics as Dick Dale's version of 'Miserlou' long before it became a dorm-room staple thanks to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.
Agent Orange released two albums in the 80s, several years apart and sounding quite different, trading in the buzzing SoCal punk sound of 'Living In Darkness' (Posh Boy) for a glossier 80s pop sheen on 'This Is The Voice'. When I first heard that album I thought it sounded like U2. It grew on me though and wimpy as it is, some of those songs are still favorites to this day. After that they seemed to disappear and I suppose I forgot about them. Their albums were squeezed onto the shelf and only occasionally got pulled out for nostalgia's sake.
When I moved to America I didn't meet many people who had shared my childhood love for Agent Orange. I got the impression they were considered a joke amongst too-cool-for-school hardcore hipsters. Admittedly, the early 90s was a time of us-vs-them, and admitting to enjoying a band with such brazen pop sensibilities could be considered a crime on a par with enjoying Green Day's major-label output. From time to time I'd see ads for Agent Orange shows in or around San Francisco, usually in weird venues that punk bands never usually played. I'd heard that it was just Mike Palm (singer/guitarist) and a couple of hired guns. People who had caught this later incarnation of the band hadn't exactly given them rave reviews. That, coupled with my reticence for reunion tours and nostalgia, prevented me from ever going to see them, although I always had a little voice in the back of my head telling me that I ought to at least get to see this band, my one-time favorite, at least once in my life.
So, a couple of weeks ago, Agent Orange was playing at the Uptown in Oakland, about five minutes from where I live, on a Saturday night. There was pretty much no excuse for not finally taking the plunge and seeing them.
The wife and I got to the Uptown (an unremarkable but decent-sounding black box of a rock club) too late to catch the opening band but in time to catch local streetpunx The Sore Thumbs. They were great, if somewhat derivative; some good guitar playing and catchy melodies. They played for too long for an opening band though. It seriously felt like an hour. I was a little bit confused by the crowd. Looking around at the amassed handful of skater bros, Burning Man hacky-sack types, and Hot Topic punk chicks, I felt like I was at a midweek bar show in a Northern California hick town, not seeing a legendary American punk band in a major metropolitan area.
Agent Orange took the stage and performed to a half-empty venue. I felt a pang of sympathy for Mike Palm that at this point in his career, after being a major part of one of the most influential scenes in American music, he can't fill a small venue in the San Francisco Bay Area. He didn't seem to care though; the band soundchecked with surf instrumental 'Mr. Moto', then launched straight into the classic 'Everything Turns Gray', and from there ploughed through a swathe of greatest hits from both albums, their EPs, and pre-'Darkness' demos, as well as a couple of tracks from their (unknown to me) 1990s self-released CD. Every song was tighter and faster than on record (sometimes to their slight detriment, especially on some of the poppier stuff from 'This Is The Voice', which could have benefited with a softer touch). The bass player bobbed up and down energetically like a Muppet the entire time, but was pretty harmless, except for screwing up the intro to 'Living In Darkness', which is the one time the bass has to take a really prominent role. The drummer stole the show though. Mike Palm is unquestionably the captain of the ship but the drummer was at the rudder that night. For all that it was small and somewhat unusual, the audience met the band's energy with boundless enthusiasm. The 'pit' was made up of computer-programmer types in Birkenstocks and glasses.
At their core, Agent Orange is a solid, tight live act with a repertoire bursting with timeless, classic punk tunes. So where were all the punks? I think Agent Orange just isn't cool enough for some people. I admit, the on-stage banter verged on the corny. I think that if the band had broken up just after 'Living In Darkness', or maybe even before releasing it, and then got back together right now for a reunion tour, punk scenesters would be wetting themselves at the thought of seeing them. They could have broken up after appearing on the Rodney On The Roq compilation, and they might have become another Middle Class or Rhino 39: ghostly touchstones that had faded into punk lore only to be resurrected by a future generation of hardcore historians.
So instead of stoking the loins of eBay-scouring message-board punk enthusiasts, with their sophisticated palates refined by copious obscure kbd rarities, Agent Orange play the Warped Tour or half-empty places like the Uptown, serving up 80s nostalgia to knock-kneed ageing skaters and a dose of what poppy punk could have sounded like before all those NoFX clones got hold of it to neophyte mall-punks. I'm not sure who's missing out more.
I'm not trying to make a case for Agent Orange's relevance in 2008. 90% of MRR's readership will think I'm lame for liking them or for writing this column about them, but too bad. I may never see them again, but I'm glad I went to see them this once, and that it wasn't a total bummer. Now that little voice in the back of my head has finally been appeased.

Seven Inches of pure pleasure (MRR #304)

I know it's a far from controversial opinion, even in the era of the digital download, but the seven-inch single is by far the superior format for recorded music ever invented. That's not to say that all seven-inch singles are great, but done correctly, e.g. one perfect, two-and-a-half minute pop nugget on the A-side, and a carefully chosen B-side (especially an equally great non-album track), it cannot be beaten. (Due to the comparative shortness of most hardcore songs, the EP naturally becomes the preferred format, but still on a 7" please).
That said, I came to this realization pretty late in the game. My introduction to collecting music came via cassettes, as we didn't have a record player in the house. I went through a succession of cassette players that my dad bought off some guy in the pub. The first one came with a Johnny Cash tape, the first piece of music I ever owned. My wee brother and I played it over and over again. I don't know if it occurred to us that we could go out and get more tapes. Those songs are embedded in my memory, never to be forgotten. It could have been worse I suppose. The mind boggles at the thought of the utter garbage that could have been on a tape deck bought off some random boozer in the Pine Lodge. (Later, in a moment of desperation for blank tapes, I recorded The Stupids' Peel Session over the Johnny Cash tape. Still got it though). Eventually I got a cassette player that also had a radio, exponentially expanding my musical exposure. I spent the summer listening to BBC Radio 1 all day, and taping the hits off the Top 40 rundown on Sunday afternoons. Inevitably, I ended up listening to the radio into the late evenings, when the pop DJs went home and the night shift came on–Tommy Vance with his metal, Janice Long with her weird indie stuff, and of course John Peel. I'd hear all sorts of stuff that I didn't understand or thought was too weird (or, in the case of 'White Riot' by The Clash, too fast. Too fast? Have you listened to that song lately? It plods along).
At some point a record player turned up in our house. It was a behemoth of a thing. It probably weighed fifty pounds and came equipped with a non-functioning 8-track player, which were already completely out of vogue by then. So much for taping records for friends.
I had started buying albums on tape, but now I could finally purchase vinyl. I continued to buy LPs though. For a while, I was especially fond of singles collections, greatest hits albums, and 'Now That's What I Call Music' compilations. I viewed these releases as offering the best value for money. All hits, with minimum filler. Given that I was spending my hard-earned paper round money, that was a huge consideration. Singles just didn't cut it. Two songs for a quid, when you could get a whole album for a fiver, or sometimes less? Do I look thick? It took several years of buying albums with two or three good songs (the singles, naturally) and a bunch of tossed-off piss takes for me to realize the error of my ways. I still couldn't bring myself to spend a lot of money on records though. Luckily, I discovered the joys of the Woolworth's 50p record box. The slightly out-of-date hits of the 80s at 1970s prices! I snapped up singles by Madness, The Jam, and Adam & The Ants, as well as a few guilty secrets I won't mention. And while you were in there you could help yourself to as many Kola Kubes and Strawberry Bon-Bons as you could stuff in your mouth from the Pick'n'Mix (or Pick'n'Nick) aisle. (After a considerable dry spell in the mid-80s, Woolies' cheapo box later yielded scores along the lines of Public Enemy and Run DMC singles).
Once I started getting into harder-to-find punk and hardcore, my main sources were taping stuff off the John Peel show, and trading tapes with friends, both locally and through the post. Amongst the few of us in our area that shared similar tastes, it was unheard of for all of us to buy the same record. One person would buy an LP and at least five of us would get a tape of it. There are some albums that I consider among my favorites to this day that I still only have on the tape someone made me in 1985. It still throws me off to hear some of those records played somewhere and not hear the extra tracks tacked on by Sandy at the end to fill the space on the C90.
This process of acquiring music led to many disappointing purchases, and the discovery of second album syndrome. Someone would tape me a copy of some band's blistering first LP, and then I'd see a later record by said band in the shop. Since I liked the album I had on tape, I'd dutifully purchase this later release, only to get home and discover that the band 'crossed over' in between the two records. Suicidal Tendencies' 'Join The Army' and 'You Got It' by Gang Green are two purchases that particularly smarted at the time.
I was still passing up any singles that weren't in the bargain bin at this time, on the grounds of value for money. I did eventually start gravitating towards singles and EPs later, but only when they were fairly cheap. I've never really been much of a record collector. For most of my music-loving life, I've been pretty happy to just have the music, in whatever format. Nowadays, that's become easier than ever. For a while, I found myself 'sharing' (ahem) the complete discographies of bands I already liked, filling my hard-drive with album after album I already possessed in some form or another, whether on a cassette dub, CD, or LP. I also downloaded records I'd always wanted to own but had never seen available for a price I could (or would) pay. Once the novelty wore off, and I got over my excitement at finally getting my (digital) ears on some of those long-lost or forgotten gems, it really felt kind of empty. I could listen to 3000 songs in a row on shuffle on my iPod, but most of the time I'd really rather just listen to one perfect single on my record player. So nowadays, if you're looking for me, you can find me in the 7" racks, indiscriminately picking up any old shit on 45 that I passed up first time around when I was skint. Most of what I pick up is still under $3 and I rarely go over a tenner though.
If you've got 70s/early 80s punk and post-punk for sale/trade, send me your list: PO Box 22971, Oakland, CA 94609,

Chaos In Tejas 2008 (MRR#303)

Sandy and I sat up until 4am, out in the shed in the garden of his Austin home. We chinwagged long into the night to a soundtrack of John Peel Session tapes recorded many years ago on a cheap ghetto blaster in a Newmains bedroom. The Prong peel session was they best thing they ever did, and that night it sounded like some kind of sonic bulletin from the distant days of the mid-80s. Yeah that's right, I said Prong. Blistering, is how I'd describe the guitar sound. We also jammed the HDQ Peel Session. HDQ were a funny band: starting off as spiky-topped Discharge noiseniks and turning into Sunderland's answer to Dag Nasty. It wasn't until Dickie Hammond twinned those Brian Baker guitar riffs with Frankie Stubbs' dreary, rain-and-gin soaked Coronation Street songwriting that melodic hardcore finally reached its true potential. Listening to that HDQ session in the shed was definitely a heavy nostalgia trip, but it was ultimately more satisfying than watching Dickie (in full Eric Bristow darts regalia) back on stage with Frankie and turning in a greatest hits set. Leatherface weren't bad at all, in fact both sets I saw at the Texas fest were solid, but it's not 1988 any more, for us or for them. The nostalgia just felt empty. Memories; ghosts of passions first stirred in the bloom of youth.
The next evening we set out on bikes. A twenty mile party on wheels, through the hills above Austin with a messenger bag of beer. The circuit ended with a swim in the creek amongst ducks and turtles. Two little kids asked us to keep an eye on their fishing poles - bent safety pins tied to two tree branches and a slice of Wonder Bread for bait. You should have seen the one that got away. Huck Finn was hiding in the bushes.
At sunset we dodged sightseers and rode past clouds of leathery bats as they began their blind riot charge into the warm Texas evening. Secret samosas were consumed before stopping at a bar called the Hole In The Wall. It's unlike the Hole In The Wall in San Francisco: different dicks hang out in this one. The bartender stood Sandy and I to free whisky beverages, which we enjoyed just before local alt-country act Lonesome Heroes took the stage. I can't stand the term 'alt-country' but the band was really good. They call themselves psychedelic country but I couldn't tell if any of them were actually tripping. In a town whose musical legacy includes the Thirteenth Floor Elevators and the Butthole Surfers, everyone has to be a little psychedelic, right?
We spilled onto the street after the show and went for more tasty samosas at the secret samosa spot. There wasn't anything that secret about them, they were right there in the counter display. I suppose it's the fact that you don't expect to be able buy a samosa in a donut shop at 2am.
Maybe I should backtrack a bit, to the actual fest itself? Do you really want to hear about the bands and who played what? Roky Erickson was basically the same as the first time I saw him last year in San Francisco. It's still amazing to get to see him play those old songs. People were stoked that Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top joined him onstage for the last two numbers. I have to say, although I'm aware of ZZ Top having a respectable body of work prior to their 80s MTV video fame, I basically only know them from that era. Sorry, but that stuff is shit. All of it sounds like it was programmed by a sleazy, bourbon-drinking robot. Which, now I actually type that, sounds like a recipe for the best music ever. Maybe they got the wrong software for the robot or something.
Anyway, I didn't mean to go on about ZZ Top. Let's move on to London's answer to ZZ Top, minus the beards, Hard Skin. Blistering set of classics on the Thursday night, straight off the bus after another short tour bringing the sounds of fake Oi to spoiled Yanks. Best line from Fat Bob: "I liked Los Crudos when they were just Mexican, but I like them even more now they're gay." The next day they played on a party boat out in some Texas lake to a 100 unhealthy, sunburned miscreants. It was like a recovery program for people with regrettable tattoos. Tall Dan from punk HQ (eg the MRR house) took a tumble on the kiddie chute, sliced his arm, and stirred up some chum for the freshwater sharks. Later that night he was all stitched up and putting on a brave face. After Hard Skin played on the barge the coast guard had to come out and spirit Johnny Takeaway back to shore so he could jet back to jellied-eel land. Genius can't hang about getting a suntan. Criminal Damage just about managed to get through an impromptu set as a three-piece with the drummer throwing up into her mouth all the way through. As soon as they were done she heaved her ring over the side, only to hit some poor unsuspecting punk swimmers. Oops!
Back on dry land there was more punk nonsense to take in. I managed to miss a bunch of bands I'd wanted to see but what can you do? There's too much to take in. At my advanced age I can't see ten bands a day any more. Afternoon shows. After-parties. Inside shows. Outside shows. Bloody hell.
Once things calmed down a bit and most people had gone home, there was a wee gig at a pizza parlor with The Young and Social Circkle, who were both brilliant. It turned into a mini-fest of its own, with just about every band still left in Austin jumping on the bill. Crude and Fy Fan played two of the best sets of the fest, and even Los Crudos turned in a few songs. It ended up being one of the most fun parts of the weekend, because it was so much like a normal show.
That's when my real holiday started, and where we came in at the start of the column. Thanks to Timmy for organizing the fest, and to Sandy & Jen for putting me and the missus up for all that time.

Cut The Crap: The Clash on PBS (MRR # 302)

I suppose it should come as no surprise to me at this point that whatever small element of danger or revolutionary potential that punk ever had is long gone, but every TV commercial or Hollywood soundtrack featuring the incendiary music of the late seventies serves as a fresh reminder that it has more or less become the classic rock for my generation. It was par for the course then when I was flicking through the TV channels the other night and came across a PBS fundraiser centered around the broadcasting of some recently released compilation of Clash performances called "The Clash Live: Revolution Rock." For those readers outside of the USA (or without a TV), PBS is public television, funded by subscriptions and donations from the viewing public (as well as, increasingly, from corporate sponsorship). The channel usually features the kind of programming (documentaries, BBC costume dramas, etc) that let smug middle-class people feel smarter and better than the kind of people who watch American Idol and Survivor. Their pledge drives are usually built around four-hour specials of the protest music of the sixties and shit like that. PBS is all about the sixties–most of their donations probably come from millionaire ex-hippies. At least, they were all about the sixties.
Picture the PBS studio, with its rows of phone banks for accepting donations, decorated for the evening with flashing police lights, camouflage webbing, and blown up Clash album covers. In between songs, the hosts encourage viewers to call in or go online to make donations of anywhere from $75 to $250. Guest 'experts' have been called in to expound on how important the Clash were to rock history: hippie DJ Pierre Robert, and "rock critic" Alan Light (of Spin, Rolling Stone, Vibe, etc). The PBS host comes on to give us the hard sell. "As an intelligent person, you appreciate and enjoy all different kinds of music, and we're happy to bring it to you." In other words, the Clash are just one more group that can fit on the PBS viewer's CD shelf alongside other PBS-approved fare like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, or Buena Vista Social Club.
The film itself is a mixed bag. Documentary sequences pair a clueless, sensationalist voiceover ("taking their name from the headlines of the day" ... "they changed the musical landscape forever") with the same hoary old recycled Don Letts footage you've seen a hundred times. Cue the banner being unfurled at Bond's in New York, then Joe Strummer with his ridiculous 80s Mohican taking a photograph from the back of a convertible. Repeat ad nauseam. There are some cool performances though: what looks like a promo video from 1976, shot on a soundstage with amateurish lighting. Mick's out of tune, and the band perform intensely for the cameramen and probably a couple of mates. You can imagine Bernie Rhodes behind the scenes, exhorting his boys to give it all they've got; The band performing "Radio Clash" on the Tom Snyder show with a genuine NY graffiti artist getting up on the corrugated iron backdrop.
Don't get me wrong. I like much of the Clash's music and I think that Joe Strummer was a genuine and thoughtful man. But they were the first punk band to really milk the revolutionary posturing and political rhetoric of the early punk scene and turn it into a massive cash-generating industry. I'm not saying they didn't mean it, maaan... Just that whatever they may have "meant" was probably lost on the crowds at Shea Stadium.
I'm sure that the smiling happy TV presenters were or are fans of The Clash, as are probably a lot of PBS viewers, and obviously The Clash don't represent the be-all and end-all of punk rock in any way whatsoever. It's just that the fact that someone at PBS thought that this was a good way to try and raise money is another nail in the coffin for punk as a movement, for punk as something that stands apart from the rest of society. I've spent a large chunk of my advancing years feeling like an outsider, so it's weird when I hear the music that gave me something to believe in used to sell cars, cruises, retirement plans, or PBS subscriptions.
To contradict myself in the first part of this column, I'll go on record here as saying that the new 'reality' TV show following NOFX on their recent world tour is one of the best shows currently on the box. The best part of the program is their manager Kent. He gets totally plastered all the time but still manages to hold it together enough to string together a sketchy tour that takes in places around the world that bands rarely get to. I doubt these guys could make it to the corner liquor store without Kent holding their hands. Well, actually, I think Fat Mike seems to have his shit together, but watching this I can't help thinking that the two guitarists are lucky they ended up getting into a successful band, because it definitely seems like their alternative would be flipping burgers. I mean, they've been playing for over twenty years but in the first episode one of the guitarists has a problem with a pedal and basically just gives up, like he's helpless. I think what warms me to the show is that despite all their success, for the most part they come across as pretty average normal punk guys that any of us might know. They seem to have their hearts in the right place and for the most part appreciate that they are pretty lucky to be in the situation they're in. The show might be more for readers of Punk Rock Confidential than MRR, though. TiVo it yourself and see what you think.
By the time you read this, Chaos In Tejas 2008 will have come and gone. I don't usually do 'fests' but I'm making an exception. Actually I've wanted to try and get to this one for the past few years but other commitments have always gotten in the way. There are always good bands and Austin is one of my favorite places in the US. Mostly I'm looking forward to hanging out with friends I haven't seen in a while, going swimming, and eating some good food. The main musical attractions for me this year are Hard Skin, Leatherface (with Dickie Hammond back on guitar!), the Marked Men, and especially Roky Erickson. Can't wait.

Wire: Read & Burn 03 (MRR #300, May 2008)

WIRE - "Read And Burn 03" (Pinkflag)
It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me when I say that I am a huge fan of Wire. It started, for me, with the song "12XU", which appeared on some punk compilation a friend of mine had and was my first exposure to the band. The record that song came from, Pink Flag, is a perfect album, and still my favorite of theirs. In fact, I put off listening to anything after that record for years. I would pass on Chairs Missing and 154 as they turned up in the record bins, suspicious that they originated from the 'lost years' I'd heard about, when Wire got derailed a bit. I think this worked to my advantage. By the time I got around to picking up those albums, not only had my tastes widened (mellowed?) a little, but I feel like I'd absorbed so much of the band's earlier music that I could pick out the essential Wire-ness of even the least Pink Flag-like of their tracks on the two subsequent records. So there I stayed, for a long time. I adhered steadfastly to those first three albums, eschewing all later output. Sure, I dabbled in bootleg issues of 77-79 stuff like their demos and the Live At The Roxy tracks, but no Wire sounds from those dark detested 80s every graced my ears. Since then, I have grown to appreciate some later stuff: if you can get beyond the slick production of A Bell Is A Cup Until It Is Struck you can detect the strain of controlled tension that run through all their work.
Which brings me to the controversial subject of Wire's production. I think Harvest knobsman Mike Thorne did a great job with the first three records, although the earlier, live, stripped-down versions of the Chairs/154 songs as they were performed on German TV and released on the Wire On The Box DVD/CD package (highly recommended by the way), I can't help wondering if maybe he wasn't a bit heavy-handed with the synths etc.
Wire broke up and then got back together again a couple of times, at one stage with only three of them so they called themselves Wir, which I remember thinking was a bit strange at the time. Then in 2000 they reformed once again and have been a band ever since, although they don't seem to play or release records on a very aggressive schedule. Their post-reunion recordings, for the first two "Read & Burn" EPs and the "Send" album, were hailed as something of a return to form, and while they did mark a renewed and welcome readoption of both velocity and volume, something about the production was still a bit off. They (or at least Colin Newman, who appears to handle most of the post-production these days) seem fascinated with processing sounds digitally, so that guitars sound not so much like individual instruments played by humans, but like some robot supercomputer's nano-engineered idea of what the perfect guitar should sound like without any messy interference from pathetic inhabitants of meatspace. It's almost the opposite of the too-lush production of the 1980s but it serves the same purpose: it dilutes the band's core strengths, which are to be found in its superior songwriting, structure, minimalism, and kinetic energy.
Which brings me to their latest release, something of an appetizer for their upcoming eleventh(! - really?) studio recording. I don't recall seeing it in our review section since it came out, but then the chances of me actually making it all the way to the "W" section of any issue of MRR are pretty slim. I've found myself listening to at least the first track of the EP on the way to work almost every day, so I thought I'd talk about it here. Coming in at roughly the same length as Pink Flag even though it's only got four songs, Read & Burn 03 could almost count as an album in its own right. The first track, "23 Years Too Late" nips under the wire at just under ten minutes long. The remarkable thing is that once it's over I want to listen to it again right away (and have), and I usually get bored if a song goes over two minutes. It's almost a spoken-word piece set to music (usually the use of the term 'spoken word' is a massive red flag, I know): bassist and lyricist Graham Lewis reads a long piece describing a decadent continental scene as a three-note guitar and synth figure builds tension behind, exploding into a propulsive, angry Colin Newman-sung chorus and a squall of bass, guitars and drums. Lewis's terse, pointed delivery could earn him a spot doing voiceovers for documentaries about serial killers, while Newman, quite simply, is still the second best vocalist to come out of the '77 punk era (Rotten of course, since you asked) and is possibly the only one still putting out interesting, exciting music. Of course, the record's not perfect: the processed production makes Robert (Gotobed) Grey's already robotic, metronomic drumming sound like a drum machine most of the time. In fact, I think there might be a drum machine in there as well at times. Still, for a band that's been around for as long as they have to still be producing music this good, skirting the edges of pop with the vitality of much younger men and no small dose of intelligence and wit, is quite a feat. Especially while contemporaries seem content to mine the revival circuit.
It has to be added that as a group Wire seem to be a little far up their own arses much of the time. Don't get me wrong, I think they come pretty close to genius but in interviews it sometimes seems like they do as well. There was an amusing snippet of an interview with Colin Newman in the Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo (Mike Watt has often cited Wire, along with The Pop Group, as one of the biggest musical influences on the Minutemen, especially for their short songs) where it looks as if the producers have collared him on the street unawares. His body language resembles someone trying to extricate himself from a pair of Jehova's Witnesses. On apparently being asked about Wire's influence on the Minutemen he expounds on how much Wire influenced American hardcore bands, saying something along the lines of "especially the way we would do a whole song of just one note." It's here that he demonstrates how out of touch he is with how Wire actually affected people. I'm going out on a limb but I'd guess pretty much the only Wire song that influenced US hardcore was the aforementioned "12XU", and even then probably more because Minor Threat covered it than anything else. That "one note" quote shows that he probably hasn't even listened to very much hardcore, since I can't think of many hardcore songs that stay on one note for very long. Hardcore is about fast riffs, not exploring the sonic possibilities of deconstructing a chord down to its essential spatial coordinates or something. The American bands who really owe a debt to Wire are the 'post-punk', artier bands like Mission Of Burma. In fact, Burma have said that it was only after seeing Wire reform as older men and not look stupid up there that they decided that they might be able to get back together as well. So there's that to thank Wire for too.