Sep 032012

I’ve always championed The Wolfgang Press. I’m not sure where your basic RTH-er is going to stand with this challenging lot. It has been said that “if you filled a room with Talking Heads fans, got them drunk and played a few Wolfgang Press discs, loudly, the congregation would go ape before they had time to rescue their cool.”

King of Soul

I’m Coming Home (Mama)

Weighty and primal, always changing, they were cast from PiL-type gloom backgrounds but there has always been something darkly humorous about this trio. Lead ranter Michael Allen was a brooding goofball who comes across like a dreadlocked Nick Cave. His spoken-howl lyrics and the band’s bottom-heavy, textured experiments moved from cacophony to minimal to soul-tinged to (admittedly not so successful) dance-floor funk.



TWP is not for the easily intimidated. Swaggering but self-doubting, full of fire and brimstone, choosing odd songs to cover, permeated by 4AD atmosphere, and always visceral, always confrontational…what say ye?


Mama Told Me Not to Come


  8 Responses to “Beasts of Burden”

  1. I’d never knowingly heard a lick of these guys until you posted this. Their name was always a major turn-off. I assumed they were one of those gloomy Chicago-area industrial-type bands (eg, The Ministry) from that record store-based label I’m blanking on at the moment. Maybe they are one of those bands; I haven’t looked it up. Anyhow, back in the ’80s that scene used to give me bad vibes. No one seemed nice among that crowd, at least while that music was blaring in a club. They might have been sweet and lovely disaffected kids in the light of day for all I knew.

    Actually listening to the Wolfgang Press at this point in my life, I see your Talking Heads comparison. “Kansas,” for instance, is pretty cool and fits in with something from my beloved Fear of Music. That said, part of me is thankful I no longer drink (eg, “Ecstasy” – I’m not sure if any song with a title involving the word ecstasy ever works). Part of me, on the other hand, is glad that I am capable of listening to these tracks in the safety of my home, long past the days of wondering what’s going on behind a person’s white-boy dreads and suspenders.

    I’m reminded, somehow, of the place I used to get my hair cut in the mid-’80s. I’ve told this story before: a really hot goth/Bauhaus fan-type girl cut my hair. Her hair was long, curly, and piled up, like that British actress married to director Tim Burton wears her hair in any number of his movies. She wore a short, pleated skirt and black tights. She didn’t talk a lot, but she was friendly considering her Look and how far removed I was from her scene. Meanwhile the shop owner, who I suspected was her lover or Goth Pimp, would stand in the corner in his shiny, gray, collarless suit; shaved head; and milky horn-rimmed glasses, just glaring at me while she waved her scissors around my hair. The whole experience was a little scary, but exciting. Cool music that was foreign to my ears was always playing, and any time I asked it was something involving Adrian Sherwood, a musician whose music I was happy to hear in the relatively safe, contained environment of that hair salon.

  2. So they are English. If this had been a Mystery Date I would have thought they were based in Chicago and only wanting to be English. I guess the 4AD reference should have tipped me off, although the Pixies’ first album was on that label, right?

    Another band I’m reminded of is Shriekback, especially on “I’m Coming Home (Mama),” when those little washes of synth cut across the mix. Joy Division’s Closer also comes to mind at such moments.

  3. Slim Jade

    I should’ve done em as a Mystery Date! Mrs.Jade hears parallels with Nick Cave and the Tindersticks, especially with those “Sketches of Spain”-type horns.

    More trivia:

    2/3 of the band were called The Models, then Rema Rema, then Mass, and their guitarist was Marco Pirroni of Siouxsie and Adam and the Ants fame.

    TWP were often produced by Robin Guthrie, and Liz Fraser (also of Cocteau Twins) sang on a cover of Otis’ “Respect”. They also contributed to 4AD supergroup This Mortal Coil. Leslie Langston, bassist of Throwing Muses, played on one of their albums. Jah Wobble did bass on one of their songs as well.

    These days Michael Allen’s raising kids and laying low, but he works with a member of The Orb under the name Geniuser.

  4. ladymisskirroyale

    I’m kind of on the fence with this band. I don’t dislike them but I don’t really like them, either. Some of the music is good; sometimes I like the vocals. But I generally have a hard time tolerating when the lily is guilded: complex music with theatrical vocals drives me batty. (See Bauhaus. I love Love and Rockets with a passion but could never tolerate Peter Murphy’s vocals.)

  5. ladymisskirroyale

    Clarification: all the Pixies albums were on 4AD.

    Good call on Shriekback. Another band I’m not particularly in love with.

  6. 2000 Man

    For me, I think this is music Mr. Mod would say is “out of my comfort zone.” I don’t hate it, but I’m not going to investigate it much further. I’d leave a show on if they played one of their songs. If they were going ot play like three in a row, I’d change it.

  7. Slim Jade

    “Out of your comfort zone? Ahhhhhhhhh” (dusts off his hands) “Then my work here is done.”

  8. 2000 Man

    And what did I find at lunch today while I was digging through used records? A Wolfgang Press album! Luckily for me, I knew I didn’t like them and bought some weird looking thing by a band called The Young Lords with a cover with that monk from Vietnam that set himself on fire. So maybe that will be good.

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