Wire, Blackalicious, & Low

Ever since they formed in 1977, experimental art-punk band Wire has had a tremendous influence on music. And unlike most first wave punks, the group continues to release challenging music into the 21st century. Wire joins Jim and Greg for a special live performance and interview.

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Whitney Houston is just the latest in a series of deceased musicians who have been made into holograms in order to tour around the world. Other famous holograms include Tupac, Buddy Holly, Liberace and Roy Orbison but this isn't anything new for the entertainment industry. For years, images of Elvis Presley and even Frank Sinatra were shown in concerts singing along with a live band and performers. And while the joke is that death is a great career move, Jim finds it interesting that it is no longer an impediment to touring. Who would you like to see as a hologram or do you think the whole thing is just too weird?

Back in 1972, Aretha Franklin recorded one of the great gospel albums of all time, Amazing Grace. In 2012, Jim and Greg even did a Classic Album Dissection on the live record because it was so good and so iconic. Famous director Sydney Pollack (Tootsie, Out of Africa) filmed the concert back in the '70s and now more than 40 years later, two major film festivals were finally supposed to show the movie. However, Aretha took legal action to block the film festivals from presenting it. Apparently she loves the film but Greg suspects this whole thing has something to do with money. This one may drag on, but Greg and Jim really hope that they sort things out because this is a true piece of musical history.





This week our guests are the art punk innovators, Wire. Their first album, Pink Flag, catapulted the band to critical success in 1977 with its unusual song structures with shifting bursts of sound. Over the years, Wire has refused to stop making new and different music, at times refusing to even play older material live. After that incredible first trilogy of albums, Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, and 154, they took some time off and reemerged in 1987 with a very different sound. That phase lasted until the early '90s and the band again went away. But in 2003, they reunited again for a third phase of their career that is still going strong. They released their 14th studio album this year, which showed up on Jim's midyear best-of list

Jim and Greg were lucky enough to host a special performance and conversation with Wire in front of an audience at the Goose Island Barrelhouse in Chicago. The current lineup includes guitarist Colin Newman, bassist Graham Lewis, and the very soft-spoken drummer Robert Grey, all of whom were with the band at the beginning. But Jim started out the interview by asking the newest member of the group, guitarist Matthew Simms, about how he got the call inviting him to join the band.

reviewImani, Vol. 1Imani Vol. 1 available on iTunes

Blackalicious Imani Vol. 1

Sacramento rap duo Blackalicious has had a huge influence on hip-hop over the past twenty years, crafting a more psychedelic Northern California sound than their LA counterparts. Imani Vol. 1 is their first album in a decade and, to Jim's ears, they haven't lost a step. Jim praises the complex, philosophical rhymes of Gift of Gab as he explores themes of perseverance and faith. Producer Chief Xcel continues to bring in sounds from across genres to create dense but accessible backgrounds. Greg appreciates that Blackalicious is picking up where they left off, not making a forced attempt at modernizing their sound. The record maintains the optimism and spirituality always present in their music, while also addressing the continuing struggles faced by African-Americans. Both critics are glad to have them back and give Imani Vol. 1 a Buy It.

reviewOnes and SixesOnes and Sixes available on iTunes

Low Ones and Sixes

Duluth, Minnesota trio Low has been making hushed, minimal music since 1993, leading critics to dub their sound "slowcore" over the band's objections. (Low stopped by the studios back in 2011). For their eleventh album Ones and Sixes, the band headed to the Eau Claire, Wisconsin studio of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. Greg cringes when people think of Low as mellow and soothing – the music may be quiet, but it's also disquieting, often reaching into dark, even apocalyptic, places. He loves how the band consistently finds new directions to take its sound even while working within the same palette, this time adding texture with electronic static and quaking bass lines. Ones and Sixes doesn't have the same amount of dynamic contrast as some previous records, so it took a while for Jim to warm up to it. But after repeated listens, he now counts it as one of his favorite Low albums. That makes it an enthusiastic double-Buy It from both critics.


Featured Songs

  1. Whitney Houston, I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), Whitney, Arista, 1987
  2. Aretha Franklin, How I Got Over, Amazing Grace, Atlantic, 1972
  3. Wire, Ex Lion Tamer, Pink Flag, Harvest, 1977
  4. Wire, Mannequin, Pink Flag, Harvest, 1977
  5. Wire, Used To (Live on Sound Opinions), Chairs Missing, Harvest, 1978
  6. Wire, The 15th, 154, Harvest, 1979
  7. Wire, Ahead, The Ideal Copy, Mute Records, 1987
  8. Wire, Split Your Ends (Live on Sound Opinions), Wire, Pink Flag, 2015
  9. Wire, Joust & Jostle (Live on Sound Opinions), Wire, Pink Flag, 2015
  10. Wire, Blogging, Wire, Pink Flag, 2015
  11. Blackalicious, Blacka, Imani Vol. 1, OGM, 2015
  12. Blackalicious, Escape, Imani Vol. 1, OGM, 2015
  13. Low, Gentle, Ones and Sixes, Sub Pop, 2015
  14. Low, The Innocents, Ones and Sixes, Sub Pop, 2015
  15. The Go! Team, Feel Good By Numbers, Thunder, Lightning, Strike, Memphis Industries, 2004
  16. Language City, Wolf Parade, At Mount Zoomer, Sub Pop, 2008 (0:21)
  17. Jeannie C. Riley, Harper Valley P.T.A., Harper Valley P.T.A. (Single), Plantation, 1968
  18. Bobby Rydell, Swingin' School, Swingin' School (Single), Cameo, 1960
  19. Barenaked Ladies, What a Good Boy, Gordon, Reprise, 1992


usatoday.com Whitney's Hologram huffingtonpost.com Aretha Lawsuit pinkflag.com Wire blackalicious.com Blackalicious chicagotribune.com Greg's Blackalicious review soundopinions.org A History of the Hip-Hop Generation soundopinions.org Low on Sound Opinions chairkickers.com Low chicagotribune.com Greg's Low review