Namedropping in reviews is an easy thing to do, and I’m not averse to it myself. The obvious ones for High Tension Wires come via the members’ pedigree (Riverboat Gamblers, Marked Men, The Reds, Bad Sports). I usually try to limit it to that—the other projects that members have worked in, and how it compares with said artists’ output. Still, High Tension Wires bring other bands to mind. Unforgettable, classic bands. At more than one point on Welcome New Machine, I found myself thinking about The Stooges, with maybe hints of The Buzzcocks on the other side of the spectrum. There’s definitely a more notable Marked Men and Riverboat Gamblers feel than Iggy’s namesake band, but the influences are still there.
This is the Denton, TX band’s third release, though it’s my first exposure to the band. From the first few measures of “Get Weird,” I knew this was a record worth spinning. The guitars play precisely-timed rhythm as Mike Wiebe and Mark Ryan trade vocals in a style that’s, oh, let’s say 30% aggressive, 70% melodic. I left my pie chart in my other pants, but record’s energy is in the groovy hooks and not from strain. In other words, it’s pop-structured singalong stuff, but there’s a tension that bubbles beneath the surface throughout. This isn’t bubblegum garage, but punk-inspired, carefully tempered havoc coming from people who know how to use their instruments, both in the punk sense of reckless banging away as well as in a more traditional (i.e. skilled) sense. Songs like “I’m Too Square You’re Too Round,” blend Ryan’s precise guitars with Wiebe’s vocal style in a perfect match, that goes full bore and builds a steady energy without ever breaking into chaos. The song rides a steady wave of awesome for just under two minutes, and shifts into the slightly more pop-rhythm of album closer, “The Secret of the Hydrogen Bomb,” a Riverboat Gamblers-style song complemented by a driving organ that holds down the pedal until a climatic ending, leaving the record with the same forceful energy that it started with.
This is the kind of record that, not only will get played a few times each week, it will make me dig up the band’s past catalog.
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