gullbuy music review

The Wipers


Is This Real? | Youth Of America | Over The Edge


Zeno Records

3 CD Box Set

The Wipers box setMake no mistake. This is the Wipers' box set. No glossy box, no massive hardcover booklet, no 30-page David Fricke biography, no dragging quotes from Northwestern grungies deifying Greg Sage, no dusty live recordings, hell, not even all their albums.

Just three CDs, a booklet that looks thrown together at the last minute, and a couple of black-and-white photos of the band. Sage's liner notes are short and sweet, no jabs at the unappreciative, no minute-by-minute account of their first recording session. And, it may be the best box set you'll ever throw down for.

For a mere $24, even less if you order it from Zeno, you get the Wipers' three classic albums, the Alien Boy EP, 23 bonus tracks, and 6 unreleased songs. If, for some unfathomable reason, you have been wary of purchasing anything other than the Best Of, or if you've been previously soured by the band's later material, or, if you think that NW rock begins with the Melvins and ends with Nirvana(sheesh), Greg Sage is here to help.

I don't know where to start with these three discs. Is This Real?, Youth of America, and Over the Edge are three of my favorite albums. The Wipers took American punk, coated it with a layer of Northwestern gloom, and blasted it back across the continent. Sage's songwriting is at once intimate, age-less, and fist-in-the-air thrilling.

A true punk-savant, he has hooks that are uniquely melodic and driving, yet unafraid to drag you screaming into a distorted, disintegrating crescendo. Songs range from the addictive straight-ahead punk of 'Let's Go Away' to the epic, sprawling avant-punk of 'Youth of America' with classics like 'Romeo' and 'Doom Town' in between. I could go on.

The bottom line is that this box set is one of the first I've heard to give a concise, true document of the artist it represents. It doesn't omit essential album tracks, and it doesn't get bogged down with throwaway live tracks or exhaustive b-side/rarity collections.

The extras here are of high-quality, expertly selected by Sage, and spread evenly across the 3 discs making each one an engaging listen throughout. If you're now thinking, 'I like box sets with fat bios and everything the band has recorded and long interviews and fan-homages and quotes and original cover art and trading cards and guitar picks and stickers and scraps of flannel..,' then I say 'No, you don't, you just think you do; here is the Wipers box set.

The Wipers were a great American punk rock band from Portland, Oregon. They put out these three records that rock really hard, and they write cool songs about love and death and teenage alienation. They may be the only punk band to have a peace sign logo. They may be the only truly great Northwestern punk band. Then again, maybe not, but it's only $24.

---Andrew Culler, November 5, 2002