Wipers - Box Set (Cover Artwork)


Box Set (2001)


The first few years of the Wipers' existence were fruitful ones indeed, producing three fabulous, equally great yet totally distinct LPs. Despite the fact that these landmark records have swayed in and out of print for the past two decades, they have proven more influential than anyone who saw the band's emaciated singer take the stage of a Portland punk rock club in 1979 could have possibly known. In the Wipers' music, more than any other band besides the Pixies, are the seeds of what would become Nirvana, possibly the greatest and certainly the most popular band of the 1990's. Despite the fact that Nirvana covered a number of the Wipers' songs and repeatedly name-dropped them in mainstream publications (word is, that Kurt Cobain even offered the Wipers the opening slot on the In Utero tour, but Sage turned it down), only now are an entire generation of music fans treated to the simultaneous availability of these three great pieces of art.

And not only do we get to hear these records again (and many of us for the first time), we get to hear them in virtually ideal circumstances. As reissues go, the Wipers box set is one of the best I've ever seen. Featuring all three studio albums digitally remastered and restored to the proper track order of their original release, scores of bonus tracks (including all of the band's out of print singles and EPs from that era, save the debut Better Off Dead EP, which is available on the also-essential History of Portland Punk Volume 1), full-size reproductions of the original sleeves, and liner notes by Wipers front-man and songwriter Greg Sage himself, it's hard to believe that a better reissue has ever been produced. When I found out that this entire package was being made available for the bargain-basement price of only fifteen bucks, I was tempted to prepare a tofu goat for sacrifice as a thank-you to the punk rock gods.

So, by now you're probably wondering what the Wipers actually sound like. Despite the fact that many people recognize the name, few people have actually heard the band's music. While any attempts to broadly describe the band's style are probably futile, at least for these three album the Wipers are defined by an almost hypnotically precise rhythm section, instantly memorable vocal melodies, and most importantly Sage's guitar playing. Sage's playing is easily some of the most unique I've ever heard. While you can distinctly hear his influence in the work of 90's virtuoso J Mascis, it's impossible to find a worthy comparison to Sage's hypnotic style either before Sage's time or since. In a word, the Wipers' early work is indescribable; if you want to know exactly what they're all about, I can only offer you sound samples below.

Even though Sage introduced his landmark style very early in his career, he wasn't content to make the same sounds over and over, no matter how original they were. The Wipers' debut Is This Real exploded onto the scene in 1979, sounding like a northwestern version of the Ramones with an ace lead guitarist who didn't sound like anyone else on the planet. By the time Youth of America was recorded in late 1980 Greg Sage's arrangements expanded to allow more improvisational-sounding jamming (the title track clocks in at more than ten minutes), but on 1982's Over the Edge the band reverted back to songwriting even tighter than their phenomenal debut, crafting what many to believe Sage's pop-punk masterpiece.

However, even if you know all that, the Wipers aficionado will still risk danger of wetting himself when he receives this package in the mail. In addition to essential non-LP tracks from the Alien Boy EP and the flip-side to the essential "Romeo" 7" single (to my knowledge, heretofore only available on CD via the History of Portland Punk Volume 1 compilation), you get tons of studio outtakes (including a remix of "Romeo" with the ubiquitous horn section finally audible) and a number of totally unreleased, never-before-heard tracks. While the opportunity to sit down and listen to all three of the band's phenomenal first LPs in their proper order is extremely welcome, the inclusion of so many excellent, substantial bonus tracks makes this release essential for almost everyone.

The Wipers box set is just completely essential for a number of reasons. If you are into early punk rock at all, you simply need this record. The Wipers have languished in obscurity for far too long, so buy this, tell your friends, and then they'll tell their friends, and so on and so on. Realistically, a self-released box set, no matter how cheap, easy-to-get, or high-quality, probably isn't going to make a band famous, but in the case of the Wipers that a terrible shame.

More reviews and sound samples from all 3 LPs included here @ deepfrybonanza.com