Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dust It Off: Wipers - Over the Edge

Over The Edge [Picture]
Album - Over the Edge
Brain Eater / Restless, 1983

The Wipers are one of the great lost bands of the American underground. Formed in the early years of West Coast hardcore, the Wipers influenced everyone from Nirvana to Beat Happening to Dinosaur Jr. Though their music is undeniably rooted in punk, it stands out from its peers by incorporating certain elements of metal and hard rock. This influence is not so much on the guitars, but rather on the wide-open melodies and moderate tempos. It's no coincidence that five years after the release of Over the Edge, the ultimate metal-punk hybrid known best as "grunge" arose in the same northwestern corner where the Wipers made their name.

But unlike in grunge, the Wipers' metal influences are subtle and restrained. Cutting any direct ties between the Wipers and hard rock is the album's pop sensibility and most importantly, its distinct DIY aesthetic. This, their third album, was released more than five years into their career, and combines the best elements of the preceding two. Their unpolished, self-produced sound, always cloaked in distortion, predicts many of the rough qualities that would later be called "lo-fi." This style was also prominent in their sophomore album, Youth of America (1981), but here it is here molded into short, focused songs. Accessible melodies help ease the listener into the album's more edgy sonic landscape.

Though some of the lyrics are lamentable ("Why do people hate each other? / Why can't we just be brother and sister? / what is this thing / human being?"), most are passable. The riffs and choruses of songs like "Doom Town" and "Romeo" are unmistakably fun, but like all good hardcore, the whole thing stinks of youth alienation and angst.

No one can blame you if you've never heard of this lost classic, but if you haven't given the Wipers a listen, now's the time! Seriously, right now.

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