The album cover for the second Wireheads record features a painting of a horse that looks like it’s been savagely beaten. Waitasecond…are you tryna say what I think what your tryna say? That Wireheads are beating a dead horse? That they’re flogging the same old concept over and over again? Is that what you’re tryna say, is it, HUH PUNK? Well, you’re dead fucking wrong, yeah, because that’s one crime that Wireheads have yet to commit. You can get in a huff about their lo-fi recordings, their inability to play on a stage that can only hold the average sized band, or even their Adelaide origins (why you’d get pissed off about the place where you can find both fuck off giant sharks and WOMADELAIDE is beyond me). But accusing them of rolling out the same tired tricks is simply not something that Wireheads are capable of.
Their debut, ‘The Late Great Wireheads’ was certainly interesting, but ‘Big Issues’ articulates the strangeness and unique abilities of the band far better. First off, getting Calvin Johnson of K Records/Beat Happening fame to record the album was a 10/10 idea. That man is pretty much the reason that oddball lo-fi reached the lounge room stereos of the globe, especially a place as far flung as South Australia, where that label seems to have, at least partially, inspired a similar scene that includes luminaries like Fair Maiden and Bitch Prefect. But back to ‘Big Issues’; getting Johnson to record Wireheads has allowed more focus, the random intrusions of their unorthodox breathing more easily between the usual battle cries of frontman Dom Trimboli.
From the second track in, the band establish a triple threat avalanche of mope-pop which makes for the first showcasing of the great musical sensibilities of Wireheads. “Boys Home” is a salad days reflection paired with niggly guitar parts and detached percussion; “Glass Jaws” paints a brief, strung-out, harmonica-led Garfield comic come to life. And “Crooked Cults” features a chorus that manages to sling together a Star Trek reference and bullying in a couplet: “Beam me up Scotty/Gimme ya church money/It’s not your fault but I’ve got no one else to blame”. Which leads to a very serious question: what the fuck is church money? Is that a thing that only exists in the City of Churches? Is it a replacement for lunch money? Is that why the kids in Adelaide are so thin – they’ve been giving all their money for sandwiches to the Church? Tracey Grimshaw, you’ve got your work cut out for you on the next episode of A Current Affair.
Wireheads play the cards of diversity, moving from their stringy guitar shredding and onto pleasant country being beaten to death by squalling No Wave (“The Frisco Tracks”), a supremely impressive punk bombing (“Year of the Horse”) and a starry eyed Americana twirl (“Victorious Hermit”). There’s plenty to be sink into here, and all of it is loaded with a ramshackle sandpaper quality.
Wireheads are hilarious, morbid, and an incredible product that could have only been sourced locally. But best of all, they’re interesting; there’s no chance of getting bored with what Wireheads have to offer. They’re a strange breed, an almost octopus that live in a weird town, and produce weirder records, providing a perfectly skewed alternative to the slicker produced popularity of Twerps et. al. ‘Big Issues’ might have a dead horse on the cover, but Wireheads are far too engaging to fall victim to that, or any, cliche.