My name is Chad Radford and I am an Atlanta-based music journalist with 20 years of experience in writing, editing, and podcasting. Punk, hardcore, jazz, noise, post-punk, hip-hop, metal, modern composition, drone music, and all points in between are where my interests lie. This site features exclusive content as well as links to articles I have written for other publications. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or send me an email.
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This week’s lineup features performances by the almighty Fiend Without A Face, the Young Antiques, Anna Kramer, the Pinx, Rodney Henry (of Glenmont Popes), Billy Rat, Bryan Malone, Patagonia Kids, Andrea & Mud, Tom Cheshire & Brian Kincheloe (of West End Motel), the Cocktail Minute with Sen. Artie Mondello, the return of Clete Thoughts, and more.
Nobody writes like Blake Butler. The Marietta-based author and editor has spent over a decade sharpening a stylishly grotesque approach to storytelling that draws comparisons to everyone from Dennis Cooper to Williams S. Burroughs. His words and ideas twist and turn inward, dissecting themselves, and revealing layers of depth and multiple meanings that linger in the mind long after the page is turned. With his latest novel, Alice Knott(Riverhead Books), Butler weaves an hypnotic and wildly inventive story about the destructive act of finding meaning in art, and navigating a world that grows more corrupt by the minute.
On Thursday, July 30, at 8 p.m. (EST), Butler will join Atlanta Music writer Chad Radford and A Cappella Books for a discussion of his new book and more. The conversation is free to attend via Zoom. Click here to join the event.
In January, post-punk outfit Algiers released their third album, There Is No Year via Matador Records. The album takes its name from Butler’s dystopia third novel. Before Butler’s talk, Algiers guitar player Lee Tesche took a few minutes to talk about Butler’s influence on the group.
Chad Radford: This year, Algiers released a new album that takes its title from Blake Butler’s 2011 novel, There Is No Year.
Lee Tesche: Yes. I met Blake in probably 1997, or maybe it ’98. … Someone recently posted a handbill from the DIY show listings back in the ‘90s on the Old School Atlanta Musicians Facebook group. The handbill had a listing for the first show that Blake and I played together. I was in F-64 and Blake was in Manhattan. It was at Sprockets, which was a bike shop in Roswell that hosted DIY shows for about a year. That was kind of when we met—we met through music and playing in bands in the late ‘90s. We went to different high schools, but it was through that show that we got to know each other. We’ve known each other for a really long time now, and, funny enough, There Is No Year is not the first album that I’ve done that had a Blake reference in the title. The first Lyonnais record, Want For Wish For Nowhere, is also named after a chapter in Blake’s book Scorch Atlas.
I had no idea.
The title for Algiers record There Is No Year, happened in a more roundabout way: it was suggested by my bandmates, whom I think didn’t realize that either. It made me laugh, and I said, ‘okay, cool. That’ll be my second Blake-related record!’
I remember seeing Blake play with the band Sleep Therapy at MJQ, probably 15 years ago, back when MJQ still did shows in the big room.
Blake is an awesome individual, and I’m curious to hear how he’s doing these days, and to hear him talk about the new book. I’ve been living in Florida since the pandemic started, and I haven’t seen much of anyone. But the new book is on my list.
I am a slow reader, and have found that with Blake’s books I need to read some lines, or sometimes entire chapters, twice just to make sure I fully comprehend what he’s saying.
I am the exact same way, and I read Blake even more slowly than usual, because he does so much with language. I’ll pour over every single word—more than I do with anything else that I read—to the point where I’ll do that too, read sentences and passages over and over again, just to make sure I’m pulling the full meaning that he was trying to get across.
Blake has a way of honing in on an idea, even if it’s a passing thought, a character trait, or a description; he’ll say it one way and then say it again in four different sentences in four different ways. It’s like he’s doing loops around his ideas and the details he wants to convey. I’ve never encountered anyone who writes like this.
Yeah, and after I had reached out to him to let him know that we were calling the record There Is No Year, and hopefully get his blessing, I thought it would make sense to have him write the bio for the record—to send out for press. He was into it, and he was happy to write the bio. He’s written a ton of music reviews, but he kind of hinted that there are several people out there who’d be a lot better, and who have more experience in writing bios. But I was like, ‘No! This is super appropriate for this album!’ And so he wrote his first draft of the bio in the language of that book. I thought it was brilliant. But Matador and the publishing people took one look at it and said “no … Absolutely not. We can’t send this out to writers!” I thought it was such a clever way to go about writing a bio for a record that’s named after his book. And it was just really clever stuff.
Are there overlapping themes between the book and Algiers’ album?
I read the book when it came out in 2011. I remember both Farbod Kokabi, who designed the album’s cover art, and I read the book at same time, and it took both of us like three or four months to finish it. We went through it really slowly, and it felt like an accomplishment when we both finished.
Our bass player Ryan Mahan has always been a huge fan of Blake’s work as well. When we were finishing the record, Ryan was reading Franklin [James Fisher]’s song lyrics. Frank had just been pulling from his own literary tradition—actually, I think Frank and Blake went to highschool together in Marietta in the late ‘90s. Anyway, when Ryan was reading Frank’s stuff it reminded him of the spirit of Blake’s writing, particularly in that book. Thematically, it was dealing with much of the same subject matter. Ryan suggested the titles as a kind of tribute to Blake, and a nod to some of the overlapping similarities that we saw, and it stuck.
Now it’s such an amazingly prophetic thing to have taken for the title of a record that came out within the first weeks of 2020. Many people have thought it was an original concept on our end, or something like that, and have reached out to ask about the title. It always goes back to Blake.
He’s an incredible writer. He’s written countless record reviews for Allmusic. He’s written a lot of nonfiction kind of essays as well, which are brilliant. He used to have that Vice column that I would read regularly, which I always thought was clever and brilliant. Many, many moons ago—back when doing these kind of Jackass-like stunts seemed like a cool thing to do—myself, Blake, Farbod, and our friend Tom Bruno went to a Ryan’s Steakhouse and tried to eat from open till close on the $3.99 or $4.99 buffet admission. Blake wrote an incredible essay about our 17 hours eating at the Ryan Steakhouse. I’ve always been a fan of his nonfiction writing, too, because it reads in a different way than all of his fiction stuff. He’s such a master of language in that sense. He’s a great communicator, but he can also convey ideas with words and meaning in interesting ways.
On Thursday, July 30, at 8 p.m. (EST), Butler will join Atlanta Music writer Chad Radford and A Cappella Books for a discussion of his new novel, Alice Knott, and more.
In the beginning, Blake Butler’s words hit the page the way Jackson Pollock thrust paint onto canvas. The Marietta-based author’s 2011 breakthrough novel, There Is No Year, unfurls in a multi-hued splatter of chaos in expansion, drawing comparisons to everyone from William S. Burroughs to Dennis Cooper.
Since then, Butler has continually honed his singularly baroque style and voice. His latest novel, Alice Knott (Riverhead Books), is a hypnotic and wildly inventive story about the destructive act of finding meaning in art, and navigating a world that grows more corrupt by the minute.
On Thursday, July 30, at 8 p.m. (EST), Butler will join Atlanta Music writer Chad Radford and A Cappella Books for a discussion of his acclaimed new novel and more.
Composer and trumpet player Russell Gunn leads the Afro-futuristic jazz big band the Royal Krunk Jazz Orkestra, featuring Dionne Farris, for a live-streaming performance at the Rialto Center for the Arts on Saturday, July 25. Music starts at 10 p.m.
Chris Frántz is best known as a songwriter, producer, and founding member of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club. His sprawling and stylish drumming played a key role in pushing post-punk and new wave inflections beyond the commonly held notions of what constitutes rock ‘n’ roll, while always remaining at least three steps ahead of his contemporaries.
In a new memoir titled Remain In Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, and Tina (St. Martin’s Press), Frántz offers a look inside his storied life, recalling tales of meeting Talking Heads singer and guitarist David Byrne while studying at Rhode Island School of Design in the ‘70s, and shaping new facets of creativity in popular music alongside his wife and bass player Tina Weymouth.
On Wednesday, July 22 at 8 p.m. (Eastern), A Cappella Books hosts Frántz in a Zoom conversation with yours truly. We’ll discuss everything from reconciling art and live music on stage and scoring hits with Talking Heads songs such as “Psycho Killer” and “Burning Down the House” and Tom Tom Club’s “Genius Of Love” and “Wordy Rappinghood” to life in the modern world.
Our interview will be followed by an online Q&A session with everyone who tunes in. Tickets are limited to 100 guests. Pre-order a signed copy of Remain in Love via A Cappella Books to receive your private invitation via email. Signed copies of the book will arrive via shipping or local delivery (where applicable) shortly after the interview.
Tune in on Tuesday, July 21, as Sonic Youth drummer and Vampire Blues label owner Steve Shelley joins British record connoisseur and music promoter Steve Shepherd for a Gimme Country “DJ For A Day” set at 1 p.m. (EST).
Say hello during their live text-chat during their set.
On Friday, July 24, Kevn Kinney of Drivin N Cryin returns with a kick-grass edition of his monthly “Free Parking” live-streaming solo performances on Facebook. Kevn will play some Drivin N Cryin classics and deep cuts along with some newer numbers he’s written. He’ll tell stories, tell jokes, and he might even offer up a few cover tunes.
In the meantime, press play below to hear Chad Radford’s April 2019 podcast interview in which Kinney talks about reconnecting with Drivin N Cryin’s first LP, the group’s most recent album, Live the Love Beautiful, and looking within himself to find true happiness.
Aside from the two installments of his demonic classical song cycle, Black Aria I and II, Glenn Danzig has released only two recordings outside of the group context—not with the band Danzig, but as Glenn Danzig. In 1981, he reclaimed the Misfits’ “Who Killed Marilyn?” and “Spook City U.S.A” for a 7-inch single on his own Plan 9 Records. In 2020, he rolled out the disarmingly gentle Danzig Sings Elvis LP for Cleopatra Records, featuring 14 deep cuts from the catalog of the King of Kings.
When viewed as bookends of a nearly 40-year stretch of his career, both of these offerings illuminate a more mysterious, and a more human side of Danzig’s voice, presence, and persona.
The Misfits took their name from director John Huston’s 1961 film of the same name. When it comes to Elvis Presley’s influence, every punk kid in America recognized it the first time they dropped a needle on the Misfits’ 1982 LP Walk Among Us and heard that rockabilly werewolf howl unleashed in “I Turned into a Martian,” Vampira,” and “Night of the Living Dead.”
The film, The Misfits, was the last feature-length movie in which Marilyn Monroe starred before her untimely death—the culmination of depression and work-related exhaustion from trying to beat the public’s perceptions about her, chronic insomnia, and consuming prescription drugs upon drugs and alcohol.
Elvis left the building under similar circumstances. Both Presley and Monroe were such larger than life stars that their deaths have been surrounded by decades of speculation, rumor, and conspiracy theories.
This dark history and mythology is subconsciously transmitted when Danzig eases into the first lines of “Is It So Strange,” the opening number from Danzig Sings Elvis. His voice reveals subtle depth as he drops the Danzig facade that he has honed since the 1970s. There’s a sensitive, passionate human behind his barrel-chested bark, and he’s more of a multi-dimensional character than we’ve been led to believe.
Danzig’s voice has softened over the years. The full-throttle yowl of “Mother,” “Her Black Wings,” “Dirty Black Summer,” “Kiss the Skull,” and “On A Wicked Night” has settled into a husky range. Here, a layer of reverb over his singing draws out honesty, frailty, and a pensive atmosphere in the album’s first single, a touching and ethereal rendition of “Always On My Mind” b/w “Loving Arms (alternative vocal).” Danzig’s spare guitar rhythms and percussion are brought to a fine point by Prong and longtime Danzig guitarist Tommy Victor’s leads, which underscore a self-styled and uncompromised elegance in re-imagining these tunes.
This can be a difficult pill to swallow for anyone waiting for the punk-metal hammer to drop. After all, there are live bootleg recordings floating around capturing the Misfits tearing into “Blue Christmas” in the early ‘80s. Danzig even called down the thunder with a ripping cover of “Trouble” for 1993’s Thrall: Demonsweatlive EP. So there’s a bit of a precedent for expectation to rock when it comes to this terrain. But Danzig Sings Elvis is a more introspective listen that embraces these songs’ original forms.
The album is executed with such matter-of-fact passion, and the songs are so deeply felt that it almost comes across as a novelty—at first. But Danzig’s interpretations perfectly combine his own soulful baritone with Presley’s drawn-out phrasing in songs such as “First in Line,”“Girl of My Best Friend,” and “Like a Baby.” So much so that it’s impossible to take in this record as anything other than a sincere homage, and a much needed break from the hard rock and heavy metal of latter era Danzig albums.
There is no mistaking the fact that Danzig is one of the greatest songwriters to rise above punk, hardcore, and metal, and his voice remains unmatched. If he has anything in common with Elvis Presley—and indeed Marilyn Monroe—it is an ability to find strength in being bold. What sets him apart, however, is a basic tenet of old school punk rock: Don’t give a damn about what anybody else makes of you. You’re not like the others. And when the rest of the herd cannibalizes itself, that’s when you thrive.
This is the message my antenna tuned into as a 13-year-old kid nodding along to “I Turned into a Martian.” It’s in the lyrics: “I walk down city streets on an unsuspecting human world. Inhuman in your midst, this world is mine to own, ’cause, well, I turned into a Martian. I can’t even recall my name!”
It’s a sentiment that resonates, albeit with a bit more resolve when he sings Elvis’ words as well: “And when you hear my name, you’ll say I’m from a strange world. But is it so strange to be in love with you?”
Nowhere on the album does this newly found energy burst with greater reverence than “Pocketful of Rainbows.” The song’s minimal arrangement, channeled through Danzig’s stylishly murky production, captures a glowing tension that feels as though the song could burst open at any moment. But the piano, percussion, and tremolo on the guitar sustain a vibe of hope and buoyancy.
Rare is the artist who can redefine their character so deep into a decades-long career. With DanzigSingsElvis, the voice and the man behind so much horror business with the Misfits, Samhain, and Danzig breaks the public’s perceptions about him, and breathes new life into his legacy. — Chad Radford
Since 2014, Cemetery Filth’s singer and guitarist Matt Kilpatrick and guitarist Ryan Guinn have methodically built the foundation for a classic death metal assault on the senses. The group’s debut album, Dominion, explodes with lightning-fast guitar riffs and solos, rapid-fire drumming, and demonic growls with enough chilling fury to light a path from your turntable to your grave—just in time to hear the coffin lid slam shut. With a current lineup featuring bass player and backing vocalist Devin Kelley and drummer Chris McDonald, Cemetery Filth channels nonstop intensity into songs with titles such as “Paralytic Scourge,” “Festering Vacuity,” and “Devoured By Dread.” Dominion materialized April 13 digitally and on CD and cassette via the Athens-based metal label Unspeakable Axe Records. In June, vinyl copies appeared bearing the mark of Atlanta’s Boris Records. With LPs in hand, Kilpatrick took some time for a deep dive into the making of the album’s dark ruminations on death metal.
Chad Radford: Oftentimes, the greatest songwriting is crafted to be open-ended so it can mean different things to different people. Dominion, means sovereignty or control. It also means the territory of a sovereign or government. Both definitions light up my brain with ideas, particularly following the recent social and political upheaval we’re experiencing. But these songs predate what’s happening now. Was it important for you to create an album that has timeless qualities?
Matt Kilpatrick: It’s always been important to us for our music to not seem like a product from a particular time—which may sound completely hypocritical to some people considering we get lumped into the “old school” death metal category. Truth be told, we just prefer and write death metal that hasn’t strayed too far away from the core elements of the genre. We aren’t trying to sound like the bands from the ’90s for any reason other than that those releases are still some of the most viciously brilliant albums in the genre.
But we write what moves us, and I think to all of us, we wanted to make music that honored our influences, whether they’re old or new, and deliver a product where you can feel our passion for the music—like our influences, and the pioneers of the genre did.
The lyrics for the title track are a bit of a metaphor for death metal as an artform. It’s my disgust at the current trends in death metal, and the over-abundance of musicians from other music scenes suddenly discovering death metal, and trend-hopping and flooding the internet with boring, uninspired new projects that sell more T-shirts than they do actual music.
“Dominion only welcomes he who lets the old ways brew; rotting ways require an obsession beyond sanity; with time’s passing, you’re forgotten leave us in ataraxy.” These lines in particular are me emphatically stating that this is not a form of music you can listen to for a week, several months, or even several years, and be able to write your own version of the style. Death metal has so much going on within it. And it is my firm belief that you have to have a sickly obsession with it, for many years, to really understand how to create death metal that has the same energy and conviction as the gods that formed the genre’s classics.
That said, to those reading, please note that my use of the pronoun “he” by no means infers that only men can write death metal. That was something I wish I had realized and changed before publishing the music and lyrics. Some of my favorite bands, and favorite musicians in modern death metal are women, both cis and trans. I apologize to anyone it could possibly offend or turn off. Today’s current events only emphasize how important it is for us as a band to show support and love to all metal fans—no matter their walk of life.
I’ve always loved lyrical content that can be read and applied in different ways. Chuck Schuldiner of Death was known for wrapping life lessons into his lyrics, but carefully crafting them in a way that could be heard differently to different people. I think he got that train of thought from lyricists like Ronnie James Dio, who was arguably metal’s greatest metaphorical writer. While some of my lyrics may be more direct, I am heavily inspired by both of these men and the idea of using metaphors that can ring true through time.
Tell me about the concepts at work behind Dominion?
I would probably say the only single unifying theme on this album is just “DEATH METAL.” That’s why the lyrical concept behind “Dominion” kind of became the perfect subject for the album’s title track. The rest of the songs on the album deal with a wide array of lyrical concepts: —“Subduction” is just a death metallized fictional tale based on the geologic process of plate tectonics recycling the earth and essentially “re-starting” ecosystems and life as a whole. —“Exhumed Visions” is a tale about finding strength within yourself, remembering your goals, re-embracing them, and moving forward as the person you want to be. —Songs like “Paralytic Scourge,” “Aeons in Dis,” “Churning of the Shallows, and “Devoured By Dread” all tell tales of cosmic horror. There are metaphors deeper in a few of those if you look for them. —“Festering Vacuity” may be the most reality-focused lyrics on the album aside from the title track. It’s about our blatant disgust for a world where ignorance is valued over knowledge, and the toxic trend that follows when you have people of power championing ignorance to their already dumb sheep.
You are credited with writing the lyrics on Dominion. Are you the sole-songwriter? Do you write the musical arrangements as well?
I’m actually not the sole songwriter and consistent member. My fellow guitarist in the band, Ryan Guinn, has been with me since the very beginning, and is also the other prominent songwriter in the group. We both bring our ideas together and form the songs into what they are. Our bassist Devin Kelley, has been with us almost as long, and he also got to contribute a couple of riffs to songs. Both of these guys would help me arrange the riffs into actual song structures, and then we’d bring them to Chris McDonald, our drummer, to complete them.
Dominion was six years in the making. How did time unfold for this record, and how did the music evolve as you moved forward?
To be quite honest, most of the music on the album was written in the 14 months before recording. The oldest song on the record is “Devoured By Dread,” which was originally released on our 7-inch split with Australia’s Sewercide. We didn’t intend to re-record any old songs, but our drummer Chris threw out the idea of doing that one since it had changed a bit since the original recording.
We’ve always been a band that’s been split up between at least three states, and before we got Chris in the band, it was always very difficult to get everyone in the same room and working as a focused group to complete songs. We loved our old drummer very much, but at the time he couldn’t commit like we needed him to. Things never progressed while he was in the band. We’d get like one or two new songs done a year at most, and that’s pitiful. I’m not going to lie—a lot of that was personal disdain. It’s hard for me to “create” and get excited about a project if it seems doomed from the get-go.
It was extremely hard to put work into a project that seemed to keep tripping over itself. I think getting this line-up together finally gave me the confidence I needed in the project to write passionately again.
One of the dedications in Dominion’s liner notes goes to Morbid Angel guitarist Richard Brunelle. Do you think of Morbid Angel’s early take on death metal—Brunelle’s style in particular—as strong influences on Cemetery Filth?
Richard’s guitar playing was very instrumental in the creation of those amazing early Morbid Angel records. I don’t think a lot of people realize how important he was in the writing of both Abominations of Desolation and Altars of Madness.
Something about the vicious, barely controlled chaos of those records is so damn intoxicating still to this day, and in my opinion, without Richard on those records, they wouldn’t come close to the perfection that they are.
Though Death is my favorite band of all time, Morbid’s Altars is what I consider to be my favorite record ever released, and what I consider to be the world’s purest offering of ripping death metal. I’d say the insanity of that record has always been something Cemetery Filth has tried to match. We had once talked about covering “Suffocation” from it, but our drummer laughed and said we probably shouldn’t, because most of those songs are so insane that they are just barely held together. It’s really very astonishing how poignant that music still is to this day, over 30 years later.
Brunelle’s death was particularly hard for Ryan and I. We did not know him personally, but a very good friend of our band did, and was actually working with Richard on getting him back to playing music, and actually had started a death metal project with him. At the time, he was playing a horrible guitar that apparently couldn’t stay in tune when they played.
Ryan had an extra B.C. Rich Warlock guitar that he had been wanting to sell, and I sparked the idea of letting me, and our friend who worked with Richard, throw him some money so that all three of us could “donate” the guitar to Richard, who often played a Warlock during his days with Morbid Angel.
He was blown away when he received it, and couldn’t believe some guys he never even met would do that for him. He never saw himself as anybody special, but he was. It was really hard to hear that he passed, but we like to think we gave him something that brought some refreshing inspiration to him in his last few months on Earth. And we certainly hope he realized how much he was loved by the metal scene.
The album is also dedicated to Michael Stewart and Bud Lancaster.
Both of these men were really close friends of the band, treasured members of the Southern / Atlanta-scene, especially to our drummer Chris.
Michael Stewart was the founding guitarist of Chris’s longest-running band, Ectovoid. He was a super talented dude, but more than that, just a great friend and passionate metal-head—and one of Chris’s closest friends in particular. He tragically passed away in 2016 due to an epileptic attack that went terribly wrong. He loved Cemetery Filth and we were honored to play the memorial show that Chris helped set up in his memory a few years ago. I really wish we could have seen what Stew would have gone on to do musically.
Bud Lancaster was another very close friend of Chris’s from Birmingham. I got to know Bud because he kind of became Ectovoid’s roadie and merch guy over the years. He was the sweetest, kindest dude. But like a lot of people these days, he suffered from terrible depression… and in late 2017, he decided he was ready to move on to the next world. I honestly did not have enough time hanging with Bud or Stew, but I loved both of those guys a lot. There are just some people you instantly bond with. Bud and Stew were that for many people, and were cherished by the metal community here in the South. I hate that we lost both of them, and so close together. We all miss them terribly. I’m positive that they would be completely STOKED on our album and especially that their best-buddy Chris was a part of it… so it only made sense to make sure it was dedicated in their memory.
Dominion chugs along by creating an ambience, or a mood, or a moment in rhythm and texture. It’s not overly showy; more like Krautrock, or something like that, which is a deeply affective element with this record. Tell me more about the drawn-out instrumental bouts in songs like “Subduction,” “Paralytic Scourge,” and the title track?
Ah, thank you for that—I’m not sure that’s something we are even conscious of! We honestly craft songs according to “feel.” If there’s a part that is longer and more rhythm based, it’s that way just because it felt right to leave it that way. I think having sections where the music can breathe enhances a song. If we had vocals and solos over every riff it seems like the album would be one big blur, and that every track would sound far less unique from each other.
Death metal is a genre based around its instrumentation. The guitar riffs are what carry the song forward—they are the literal skeleton of any song. You can argue the drums are equally as important, but I will guess that most any band would agree that the riffs always come first.
I can’t speak for every death metal band in the world, but we have always crafted drums around the feel of the riffs. Chris McDonald—the drummer—joining the band went so smoothly and efficiently because he is a drummer that hears riffs and can quickly and fluidly apply a wide variety of beats and fills that compliment the riff. He’s literally told me “I’m just following what you guys are doing,” and the efficiency he has in that talent still impresses me to this day.
But really, any good death metal track is an arrangement of riffs that takes the listener on a journey. And like any journey, you have heavily narrated and intense parts, and then you’ll have parts where the story breathes and allows for the next big event in the tale to build up. So I guess if our instrumental sections of songs seem odd at times, they’re done intentionally to allow the next part to have an extra heavy or ripping impact on the listener.
Do you have a favorite song on Dominion, or is there one that resonates with you, maybe more than some of the others?
The favorite song for each of us probably changes often. If I had to choose one that is a particular accomplishment for me, it would be “Festering Vacuity.” It’s the only song I’ve ever written on my own, from beginning to end. That was a big goal of mine for this record, to contribute one song written completely by myself. Not to say that I dislike working with the other guys… I actually think a band’s best material comes from a band that does write together! But I wanted to prove to myself that I could write a full song, and the bizarrely jumpy, almost-manic sounding “Festering Vacuity” was the result.
If you were to sample one song to somebody to give them an idea of the full album, I would probably go back to “Churning of the Shallows” to be honest. That’s why we lead with that song as the big single that announced the release. It’s got a ton of different parts to it, and that’s always been a big part of Cemetery Filth’s writing style. We like our songs to evolve over time instead of following a predictable formula.
Before Atlanta shut down over the COVID-19 pandemic, Wire played a show at Variety Playhouse on March 7, 2020. It was a Saturday night, and it was the last show I was lucky enough to catch before statewide shelter-in-place orders became too urgent to ignore.
It had been a few years since the British post-punk legends last made an appearance in Little 5 Points. For this show, co-founding members singer and bass player Colin Newman, guitarist and vocalist Graham Lewis, and drummer Robert Grey, along with guitarist Matthew Simms—the latter of whom has been a member of Wire since 2010—were playing shows on the heels of releasing their most recent album at the time, Mind Hive.
Striking a balance between intimacy and intellect—punk reflexes and avant-garde instincts—lies at the core of Wire’s singularly introspective brand of art rock in the post-aughts. There’s a tactile energy between Newman and Lewis’ words and the drawn-out musical atmosphere that billows around them. Channeling this for the Variety Playhouse’s mostly full 1,000-seat room is no simple feat. But on March 7, Wire reached deep with a 19-song set underscoring the strengths of Mind Hive, while breathing new life into a handful of classic numbers as well.
Perhaps one of the most stunning moments of the night’s performance—aside from “Oklahoma” being an absolute barnburner—was the spacious reinvention of “Over Theirs.” The song, which originally appeared on Wire’s 1987 LP The Ideal Copy, is a barbed and paranoid lurker, cut from the digital textures and sparse rhythms of an era when synthesizers were still a new thing for a foundational British punk band to push forward. At Variety Playhouse, “Over Theirs” went to a dark, muscular, and more cavernous place than its Reagan/Thatcher-era origins, showing off wholly new depth and nuance in the song’s menacing nature. When placed alongside both older and newer numbers such as “Be Like Them,” “German Shepherds,” and “Ex-Lion Tamer” the song unfolded like a cautionary anthem for the darkness that still lies ahead.
Mind Hive has been a solid contender for album of the year, at least in my book. That is, until yet another Wire album arrived in June, titled 10:20. The new album is a collection of upgraded rarities, distilling Wire’s post-2010s stylistic growth into an exquisite and wholly new offering that’s bursting with self-references that reach all the way back to 1978’s Chairs Missing LP. More on that later, but sure enough, the freshly reinvented “Over Theirs” appears on the B-side in all of its ominous glory.
Setlist “The Offer” “Be Like Them” “1st Fast” “Cactused” “Morning Bell” “Question of Degree” “Over Theirs” “German Shepherds” “I Should Have Known Better” “Patterns of Behaviour” “Primed and Ready” “Ex Lion Tamer” “It’s a Boy” “French Film Blurred” “Oklahoma” “Hung”