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Wire Post to Wire

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Album Review

The Standard took their time with Wire Post to Wire, the result being an album that's as gorgeously tasteful as it is frighteningly tense. There's something anxious in the pattering rhythm to the Clinic-ish "Even Numbers," and as the guitars rush forth you might expect an explosion. Instead, Jay Clarke's sophisticated piano line takes the fore, matching the fragility in Tim Putnam's wavering vocal. It's a pretty incredible thing to hear, this maturity. After all, aren't these post-everything bands supposed to be chock-full of vim, vigor, spike, and squelch? On the contrary, the Standard revel in fueling their angular (and angry) side with that incredible piano of Putnam's, and a lyrical mystery that's usually unsettling, but occasionally heartbreakingly gorgeous. It's like crying over a foreign film whose language you do not understand. The darker side of Wire has its day in the black sun with "Ghosts for Hire," which stutters and stops in post-punk melancholia as the guitarists build aching melodies from echoing stairways. The six-plus-minute "Folk Song" begins as a solo piano piece, with Putnam seeming to lament a mother's grief over her lost son. But his folksinger character becomes a rich and gluttonous man, and forgets his idealism as the song's steadily building instrumentation turns shadowy. By the climax it's unclear just what's happening, but Putnam sure sounds rueful. The Standard prove adept at these emotional shifts throughout Wire Post to Wire — it's affecting stuff, even if the meanings aren't entirely clear. "Unicorns and Chemicals" is built around a Bacharach-ian melody, but is filled with murky lyrics about sanitarium ruins (?) and faraway plinking synthesizers, putting it closer to a sort of art-damaged Nick Cave. The spidery pinprick guitars of opener "Metropolitan" return for "A Black Machine," where they scatter over distorted bass and a stark pace akin to classic Mission of Burma. This is how it goes with the Standard and Wire Post to Wire. Comparisons to a round of past genres and artists abound, but the album is startlingly unique. It's compelling from start to finish, and leaves behind melody and scraps of torn imagery in the mind.


Formed: 1999 in Portland, OR

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The Standard hail from Portland, where they began playing shows in 1999. Vocalist/guitarist Tim Putnam, keyboardist Jay Clarke, bassist Rob Oberdorfer, and drummer Rob Duncan had known each other from playing in various bands -- and in various styles -- around town, and as the Standard they incorporated all of that to develop a moody and unpredictable indie rock sound. A self-titled release appeared through Barbaric in 2001, followed by the Touch & Go release...
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Wire Post to Wire, The Standard
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