Chirp, Chirp. That’s the biggest problem with The Standard’s otherwise wonderful third album, Wire Post to Wire. Not to imply that slight electronics are a bad thing; it’s probably just the progression of technology showing it’s face everywhere it can. Listening to 80s albums you constantly hear cheesy vocal echoes, hand-claps, budget keyboard string arrangements and toy drums coming from otherwise good bands.
All the new technology in the 80s went straight to artists’ heads once they got in the studio. Now, over a decade later, a good portion of music produced during that time sounds cheap and uninspired. I’m weary. There seems to be a good chance that the electro-fad is the hand clap of our generation. Thus my only real problem with Wire Post to Wire: its production.
We’ll get back to that later. With Wire Post to Wire, The Standard are all set finally to make a name for themselves with their guitar/keyboard based, nine-song epic. Don’t let that “keyboard ... epic” thing get you; this isn’t Yes. The Standard embrace ambient, textured rock similar to that of Interpol’s debut, as well as the sweet, delicate vocal stylings similar to that of the Tragically Hip’s Gordon Downie. While it may sound like it, this isn’t a hipster album. The Standard have a vision that wasn’t easy to come by.
A group of Portland lads living together decide to move to freaking Southampton to get away from everything they knew, live in a small house, work at a seafood restaurant and obsess over the music that became Wire. Sounds solid. The cast of Dawson’s Creek probably had a similar lifestyle, except for that small house stuff. Describing their time in Southampton, singer Tim Putnam had plenty to say. “It was the Hamptons. We basically had a summer in the Hamptons ... as dishwashers and cooks. It was like a bizarre Savage Steve Holland film.” Hey, a reference to a one-hit wonder (Better off Dead) 80s director (who didn’t use handclaps) and most recently directed episodes of Lizzie McGuire. Stellar. I told you they weren’t hipsters.
A Dawson’s Creek and Lizzie McGuire reference later, we’re finally onto the music of Wire. As mentioned before, the Downie vocal likening is essentially spot on. Putman embraces a progressive stance through his vocals and lyrics where Downie (Coke Machine Glow aside) has always attempted to be the Canadian Michael Stipe - you know, singing the pop songs that “mean something.” The progressive spirit is key on Wire and can be heard in nearly every aspect of the album, yet it manages no to estrange the capricious listener. Despite its long songs, dense compositions and somewhat dim lyrics, Wire is as ready to be played in a college town thrift shop as anything.
For fans of modern post rock, Wire is a monster. Spanning 50-plus minutes over nine fully developed songs, The Standard present melodic, subtly aggressive songs about their experiences and everyday struggles. For fans of scrupulously textured rock, Wire is headed towards the top of 2004’s mountain of otherwise nearly forgettable albums. Swirling pianos, clever keyboard work, haunting guitars, and an incredible rhythm section should have Wire Post to Wire sneaking it’s way onto critics year end lists come October, I mean January.
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