Album #31: Wipers – Is This Real?

  • Released: 1980
  • Origin: Portland, Oregon, USA
  • Label: Zenorecords
  • Best Track: Don’t Know What I Am

I’ve got to #31 without covering anything from the 1980s yet. About time that changed as I listen to a band often name checked as an influence on some of my favourite music.

Is This Real? is the debut album for Oregon band Wipers, and even in the background reading for the 30 albums I’ve done so far, I’ve seen their name pop up a few times. I’ve only listened to bits of them, so I thought I’d start from the beginning.

Released in early 1980, Is This Real? was itself clearly influenced by the late-’70s punk explosion, but perhaps more importantly, it drove the Pacific Northwest alternative rock and grunge sound that followed, influencing the likes of Dinosaur Jr., and plenty of Pacific Northwest musicians like Mudhoney and, most famously, Kurt Cobain.

Opening track ‘Return of the Rat’ was covered by Nirvana, as was ‘D-7‘. It’s easy to see why Wipers’ song struck a chord with Kurt – they’re simple, yet their songs speak loudly about what goes through the mind of an introvert. ‘Potential Suicide’ reminds me of Nirvana too, with the bass opening similar to that of ‘Breed’.

Greg Sage’s vocals are superb in this album. He has a really strong voice, as displayed in songs like ‘Mystery’, but wisely chooses to keep it punchy and gritty. The lyrics are classic post-punk, dealing with anxiety and isolation in tracks like ‘Window Shop for Love’ and album highlight ‘Don’t Know What I Am’.

It’s one of those albums where once you’ve listened to it, a lot of contemporary stuff makes a lot more sense. Wipers are an essential listen, and really one I should have heard more of.

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