(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Recording review - Wire Faces, King Cataract (2013)

Richly textured, drum-driven post-punk

It's been a year since I reviewed Wire Faces' live show. Their new album, King Cataract largely lives up to the high bar they set opening for El Ten Eleven last February. The release is overshadowed a bit by material loss: their equipment was stolen over the holidays from their rehearsal room. The band had just launched a Kickstarter campaign to pay for mixing and duplication of the new CD, but this left them looking for even more help from their fans. The original goal was $5000 which they overshot by almost $2K. That can buy some new gear but still leaves them hurting.

Listening to King Cataract is like slipping back in time and across a dimension or two. Their universe is anchored in the '80s. But unlike our world, post-punk dominated and evolved into a wild, technically proficient musical force. On the surface, Wire Faces' riff-driven songs evoke bands like The Fixx, Wire, and early Police, but the trio's music is more restless and complex.

Savant drummer Shane Zweygardt pushes the band, integrating a constantly shifting set of fills and rarely settling for a simple beat. The rest of the band integrates with his rhythms, creating a tight, textured whole. "Your Blue Lips" leads off with a a frosty, open-phrased guitar riff countered by the bass' steady throb. The drums bridge the two, aligning splashes of cymbals to fit the guitar and back beats to mesh with the bass line. When the verses opens up, the bass and guitar shift into balance while the drum syncopation add an energy to contrast the singing. The vocals are coated in reverb and detachment, adding to the new wave vibe.

Zweygardt pulls double duty in the band, somehow covering lead vocals while he tosses off his impressive drum parts. Unfortunately, his voice isn't as strong as his playing. His unpolished singing favors simple phrasing and small melodic hops, but is serviceable for the style. Between the production and his tone, it can be hard to pick his words out of the mix. "Endless Gala" captures his best vocal performance. The staccato beat and driving bass at the start of the track suggest Doug Feiger and the Knack, but the song quickly moves beyond power pop with Ian Haygood's guitar adding nuance and flavor to the arrangement. Choppy riffs alternate with splashes of chords, but the simple repeated phrases of the short lead resonate and ring.

I like how the band can shift from the high-pressure tension of"Happiest Man" to the odd beat pensiveness on "Temptress" or the deliberate chill of "Vultures". I also like the full sound that they build throughout these songs. While there are clearly some guitar overdubs and occasional studio treatments, the album is not so far from what the band delivers on stage.

Give Wire Faces a listen and, if you want to help support them, drop by iTunes and pick up King Cataract or one of their other albums.

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