OK – so you know what Wire Train did release during their career. Five bona-fide studio albums, a “best of” and appearances on numerous compilations. In addition, there were the 7″ & 12″ singles (remember those ?) that featured otherwise unobtainable “B” sides. In short, a fantastic body of work.
Those of you that managed to catch Wire Train in the early days will know that there were several songs performed on-stage that never made it on to a Wire Train record of any sort. Kevin Hunter was, indeed still is, a thriving song-writer and some of his songs that later found their way to other artists would first appear in the Wire Train repertoire.
Finally, there are the two albums-worth of material recorded after No Soul No Strain – Snug and Electric. Snug is examined here in greater detail further down this page, but first let’s take a look at some of the older material that never snuck out.
100 Days (a.k.a. 100 Days Without Words)
Well, this did kind of sneak out – a great live version of this track can be found on the King Biscuit Flower Hour LP of the show at Blondies in Atlantic City, 1984. This was a regular show favorite during those early tours – sung by Kevin, presumably a Hunter/Herr composition.
Find Me Now
Slow and moody, with great guitar work, this is probably my favorite of the earlier cuts. Another staple during the ’84 live shows, this track was sung by Kurt and often appeared mid-set. Wire Train shows were broadcast on FM radio at least three times during 1984, and this track surfaced at least twice – once at the Cleveland Agora, and again at the West End, Chicago. A cracking song whatever way you look at it.
Where We Can Go
The first of two tracks that actually surfaced on Jane Wiedlin’s self-titled debut album in 1985 (IRS-5638). This one is actually co-credited to Wiedlin-Hunter, and appeared regularly at Wire Train show’s during 1984. Once again it was broadcast on FM radio at least twice, at the two venues mentioned above. Sung by Kevin.
I Will Wait For You
Another fantastic track – typical Wire Train circa 1984, this one was sung by Kevin and appeared regularly at the 1984 shows. The live version which turned up on the Sony retrospective CD is taken from the FM broadcast at My Fathers Place in New York, and is stunning in both it’s clarity and performance. It is definitely the best of the three live versions I have heard. This track also turned up on the Jane Wiedlin debut album, but is credited to Kevin Hunter only.
Well, that’s a taster of the older material. I Will Wait For You and Find Me Now are both marvelous tracks that should have had an official release of some kind.100 Days isn’t far behind.
Kevin mentioned to me that these songs were never actually recorded in the studio, which is a shame.
In 1993, Wire Train recorded around two albums-worth of material intended for use as a follow up to No Soul No Strain. Tentatively titled Snug and Electric, they were both rejected by MCA for being “too weird”.
When No Soul… appeared, for me it definitely marked a departure from any sound that the band had established in the ’80’s. There was a small leaning towards something funky or soulful on a couple of the tracks (eg, Stone Me and Willing It To Be), and Snug – in places at least – takes this a whole stage further.
The tracks documented here are peppered once again with some fantastic guitar playing from Jeffrey, and some great vocal performances from Kevin. I’ve added snippets of lyrics where I can, but these are reproduced without permission so please be nice and don’t plagiarise. So, without further ado, here’s a track-by-track run down on Snug.
1. Who Gives A Shit ?
Yes, you did read that right, that is the title of the opening track! Recorded as if at a party, it’s a kind of sing-along “up” piece driven along by Jeffrey’s Wah-Wah guitar and Jebin Bruni’s keyboards. A real throw-away kind of song, I’ve got to admit this isn’t my favorite Wire Train track.
2. I Was Wrong
Mmmmm, this is a bit more like it. Start’s slow and quiet and then builds up to a great chorus, complete with Buffalo Springfield-style backing vocals. To learn is to live sings Kevin in one of the most earnest vocal performances on the album. Great slide solo by Jeffrey at the end.
3. Get In With You
Low down and dirty ! A fantastic groove flows all the way through this track – sparse Hammond-style keyboards from Jebin, great Wah-Wah guitar from Jeffrey. At times some of the lyrics seem as if they are just plucked out of the air, but this just enhances the overall feel of the song. Eg, Johnny Mathis, Lick This, Wash That, Dance Back – fantastic ! Get’s even better in the third verse – Got some Barry White, Luther Vandross, Kenny G – cut may hair, just like Michael Bolton with a hard-on ! Great chorus, without doubt a band really mining a groove. I love this track.
4. Funky Monkey
Still the beat goes on ! The guys stay on the funk groove, but up the pace 2 or 3 levels. Somebody plays the bongos like their life depends on it and Anders holds the whole thing together with some great bass playing. Key lyrics – Everybody says sex is in the bed, I want mine in my head – displaying Kevins desire to mine a spiritual vein (well, that’s what I think anyway). Another great track, but you wouldn’t expected to have found it on Between Two Words.
Big change of pace now, this acoustic guitar driven mid-tempo track is really gorgeous. Lady never sang the blues, though she probably needed too, She was so hung up on helping me, I’m so hung up on helping you. A terrific vocal performance from Kevin under pinned once again by Anders’ authoritive bass playing.
6. She Is The World
Keeping things kinda mid-tempo, we have another low-down groove driven by Hammond organ and Wah-Wah guitar. This track really sparkles in places, and once again there are some stunning lyrics – While congressmen and cop’s compare the spoils of serving God, If you lose the world and gain your soul what have you got ? I’ll stick my neck out and say my take on this is that God and/or The World is a woman and we’re only passengers riding on the girl. Once again Anders holds the whole thing together with some great syncopated bass runs. Terrific stuff, and a definite case of “less is more”.
My personal favorite on the album, without a doubt. Slow and moody, not at all funky, just a great rock track. A plaintive guitar line opens, and then drums & (particularly) bass completely change the feel. Another stunning vocal from Kevin and a great solo from Jeff to finish the track. Simply beautiful.
Heavily treated drums open this one, before the rest of the band come in with a very repetitive-feeling riff. Background “Sha La La La’s” help to break the song up a bit, but I guess the song as a whole never seems to completely take off. Don’t get me wrong, I like this track too, but it could do with a bit more “space”, if you know what I mean.
9. I Will Be Something
Brian and Anders open this with a kind of tight-yet-spacey groove that continues throughout the track. The chorus really kicks in after each of Kevins double-tracked verses, there’s a nice bongo/bass/ride-cymbal middle bit before Jeffrey’s slide guitar seriously kicks in and the song rocks out completely. As you can probably guess, I like this a lot.
10. Drive All Night
Starts off (and in fact stays) kinda Prince-like, with slap-bass, handclaps and high funk-guitar. To be honest this tend’s to meander a bit too much for my liking. Johnette Napolitano (from Concrete Blonde) supplies some of the backing vocals in the chorus. May well have been recorded at the same time as the album’s opener.
11. You Took Me In
A muted driving drum pattern, spacey keyboards and Anders’ high-bass runs define this track. It’s difficult to describe but there’s some sparse but great cymbal work that really stands out on this cut. No guitars at-all, as far as I can tell. This is a really cool piece of music. Fades nicely into….
12. You’re Not Around
Bongos and understated backwards-guitar start off this gorgeous track – Time was I was in hate with you my love, My darkest hour has your name recklessly imprinted on it my love. Jeffrey’s guitar appears, carving a nice arpeggio pattern that complements the rest of the track perfectly. A cracker. Segue’s nicely into….
13. Picture In A Picture
Bongos & drums start, before Anders’ bass begin to define the track. Jebin’s keyboards sneak in quietly until the chorus when once again that Hammond / Wah-Wah combination takes over. Introspection is the killer, Life the rush sings Kevin in one of the verses of another superb vocal performance. This is the closest they’ve come yet to blue-eyed, white-boy soul and it’s a stunning way to close the album.
Well, that about wraps it up for now. Snug is a great album, bar maybe two weak-ish tracks. What strikes me most about this album is the space that permeates the finer cuts – there’s air around some of the instrumentation that makes the songs simply dazzle the listener. Although all of the band are fine musicians, they know when to hold back and let a groove or a “feel” carry a song forward. It’s this ability, first hinted at on cuts like “If You See Her Go”, “Tin Jesus” or “Hey Jordan” that really makes this band shine.
In short, it’s criminal that these songs won’t see the light of day.
Lyrics by Kevin Hunter, Music By Wire Train
Keyboards: Jebin Bruni
Backing Vocals: Katie Conroy, Andy Prieboy, Johnette Napolitano, Jane Wiedlin, Sheryl Crow
Recorded by: Rob Salcedo in Hollywood, CA, 1993
Produced: Wire Train (Executive Producer, Bill Bottrell)