[Today: Driving through a dark country...]
Wipers are among the original indie heroes. Group mastermind Greg Sage was D.I.Y. before the term had been invented – he was cutting bootleg LPs for his grade school classmates when he was only 7 years old! He formed Wipers in 1977 with drummer Sam Henry and bassist Doug Koupal, and the group’s second album, Youth Of America, plays out like a blood-curdling scream at the outset of the Reagan years. But Sage claims that the record is actually a positive statement – a call-out to youth to take up arms and take matters into their own hands. “The youth of America are the people who really control the future, can control the future. It sounds really doom-laden in a sense, but it’s actually just the opposite,” he said in a 1983 interview.
The lyrical content of these songs back that contention, but while the message might be positive, the music is intense and ominous. Sage sings with paranoia in his voice, while raw, distorted licks flow from his guitar. Nearly every song on this album has a rhythmic propulsion that puts you behind the wheel of a powerful car, with dark open road ahead. But its edgy atmospherics make this an album most conducive to a night drive through either empty city streets or burned out, barren moonscapes. If one could travel fast enough, it would theoretically be possible to follow the night around the globe endlessly – this is the music for such a drive.
In that respect, Youth In America is the evil twin to The Doors’ 1971 album L.A. Woman. At the outset of the 70’s, Jim Morrison looked around and found America severely wanting, and his search for a lost country on that album was mirrored by the Wipers exactly a decade later. Like the song ‘L.A. Woman’, the title track here is an adrenaline-pumping ride into a cruel, unforgiving, and exhilarating night.
This album has been released with several different running orders, but these songs all bomb along with roughly the same breakneck velocity and awesome intensity. No matter how you stack them, they add up to a great album, but the 2007 Jackpot Records LP re-issue deserves special mention. Its running order runs contrary to Sage’s stated sequencing preference, but it’s pressed on nice 180g vinyl, and features songs re-mastered by Sage himself. A post-punk essential.
Listen: Youth Of America
Listen: Taking Too Long