By Sarah Bennett
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By Jena Ardell
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Wires on Fire sound like they could've been pulled right out of the mid-'90s—their jerky, guitar-heavy rock could've been thrashing around with the flannel-wearing teens up in Seattle. But listen more carefully to the Los Angeles four-piece and you'll hear some unexpected sounds. Amidst all the bombast, there's a faint twang that recalls Neil Young, and that endows Wires on Fire with some soul.
It's not just because of the seemingly reverential love of Young that pervades the band's press bio—listen to Wires on Fire's 2005 HomewreckerEP or their 2006 self-titled full-length and you'll hear the same desperation that echoes through nearly all of Neil Young's records.
"Consciously Unconscious" is a perfect example. The song begins in typical Wires on Fire fashion: Evan Weiss's slurred shouts fighting for space with a fast, jagged guitar line reminiscent of Drive Like Jehu's "Here Come the Rome Plows." Eventually, though, "Consciously Unconscious" gives way to a short guitar swell and a mug-swinging interlude more fitting for some awful Southern-rock band.
But aside from bringing to mind some dive bar in Macon or Louisville, "Consciously Unconscious" lets you imagine Wires on Fire stomping out their songs in worn-down cowboy boots rather than beat-up Chuck Taylors—and it allows the band to add a sense of playfulness to their deceptively rough sound. After all, Wires on Fire don't always want to bludgeon you with layer upon layer of thick, heavy riffs—sometimes they want you to actually feel it in your gut.
Neil Young's guitar work on "Words (Between the Lines of Age)" (off Harvest) does the exact same thing. Whereas "Consciously Unconscious" serves to lighten Wires on Fire, "Words" roughs up Young, his guitar lines sending the song into a spiral of awkward but entirely expressive solos. Without that, "Words" mighthave just sunk into the rest of the album. Instead, Young elevates the song with an almost punk-rock style that, like Wires on Fire's folk-style throwback, affords him a uniqueness outside of his typical sound.
So it's somewhere in the middle of the feedback-laden guitar solos and beer-swigging rhythms that Wires on Fire meet Neil Young. Within this overlap, though, there's more than just a sound—there's also an aesthetic. If it weren't for their shared styles, Wires on Fire probably wouldn't be throwing on flowery Western-style shirts for their press photos. Neil Young probably wouldn't be revisiting the ratty T-shirt and leather jacket combo, either. But whatever works.
WIRES ON FIRE PERFORM WITH KISSING TIGERS, AISLE NINE AND FRONT ROW FOR THE MELTDOWN AT ALEX'S BAR, 2913 E. ANAHEIM ST., LONG BEACH, (562) 434-8292; WWW.ALEXSBAR.COM. FRI., 8 P.M. $5. 21+.