Wipers - Is This Real? (Cover Artwork)


Is This Real? (1980)

Sub Pop

Just a few years after the Ramones and the Clash made their mark, a little town in Oregon called Portland, was home to a band who was doing the same thing, but few people have ever even heard of them.

In 1980 the Wipers were the kings of Northwest punk, and as Kurt Cobain once said, "If it weren't for the Wipers, there wouldn't have been grunge."

Greg Sage, a legend in the northwest subcultures, was the vocals and the guitar of the Wipers. Mixing dark and spooky lyrics with fast-paced guitars and great bass hooks, the Wipers took over Portland and helped inspire a countless number of other bands who will never say who inspired them.

The Wipers were popular in the same way that the Pixies were or even the Velvet Underground. They sold very few albums, but went on to inspire a myriad number of bands.

Is This Real was the album that shot the Wipers into their own little popular culture, and is the album that is looked back on as being a masterpiece. Songs like Alien Boy and Return of the Rat have been covered by punk and grunge bands for decades.

The whole album feels dark.

Depressing lyrics at every corner and guitars that slowly build up and fade away and then scream all the way until the end. Greg is a poet in his own way. In Alien Boy we finally get to hear Greg's lyrical talent.

"Got no rights. No rights at all. They just feed off the sun. They hurt what they don't understand…He's an alien boy."

D-7, a very perfect slow song with an amazing blast of energy towards the end is easily one of the album's highlights. Many of the songs on Is This Real of great build-ups. Songs like Mystery and Up Front start with a looming bass line and the drums echo in just as the guitar dances its way through. By the time the chorus comes in you feel like the song has already accomplished everything.

There are also songs like Return of the Rat and Is This Real, which are some of the faster songs that the Wipers became known for, and demonstrated Greg's vocals more than his lyrics. Greg was able to shout his way through his songs without worrying if the crowd understood or not.

Eventually they did.

Released on Sub Pop records years before Soundgarden and Nirvana, the Wipers created the sound of the Northwest, which ended up inspiring grunge. Whether or not you appreciate or even care about grunge bands, it is hard to deny the talent of Greg Sage and the Wipers and the fact that they were doing all of this before anybody had even heard of bands like Nirvana. And "that's a good thing" to quote Martha Stewart.