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High Tension Wires - The Midnight Cashier [Dirtnap Records - 2007]

High Tension Wires are a band made up of members of other bands, but they are not necessarily a "side project". The band consists of three members of punkers the Marked Men and one guy from the more rootsy Riverboat Gamblers. Their first album, Send A Message, released a couple of years ago, presented ten spiky punk and garage rock tunes in 19 minutes.

Like a few other bands on the Dirtnap roster, High Tension Wires' music is also informed by a bit of post-punk angularity. You may be thinking that there's a few hundred bands out there which fit into those genres these days, and you wouldn't be wrong. What sets these guys apart is their lack of pretension, coupled with the ability to write catchy songs. Though their songs are almost poppy at times, there's an in-the-red intensity which gives them a sense of urgency. Unlike so many of the current crop of punk or post-punk bands, High Tension Wires don't come across as derivative or contrived. Their lyrics are off-kilter, and sometimes humorous.

The Midnight Cashier, like their first album, clocks in at around twenty minutes. Strangely enough, for an album so short, it's a grower. Where their first album was all brash, white hot intensity, this album is more carefully paced and produced. It's not necessarily better, because there's a lot to be said for the first album's verve. It's just different. It has a bit more of a post-punk hue than the first as well. These tracks remind me of Mission of Burma and Wire at times, which is definitely a good thing. The fact that they keep them brief is not a problem at all, as they all seem fully formed.

Fans of Send A Message may be slightly put off by the Midnight Cashier because of its lack of immediacy (as I was at first). If you stick with it, though, you'll find that it's just as rewarding as the first.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Erwin Michelfelder
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