BIG STIR RECORDS is thrilled to welcome to its roster: TRIP WIRE! The band's brand new fourth album Once & Always will see release digitally on Friday, March 15, with a physical CD to follow in late April.
TRIP WIRE has risen a long way in a very short time. From their formation in 2015 as a collaboration between singer-guitarists MARTY SCHNEIDER (Midway Delta, Campbell Apartment) and BILL HUNT (Captain Fatass, The Generous Grants) to today, they've released three full-length albums, culminating with the celebrated and raucous hook-fest Cold Gas Giants (Kool Kat Musik, 2017). Along the way they've become a hard-gigging and compelling live act, regularly commanding stages on the vibrant San Francisco guitar-pop scene alongside the likes of Bye Bye Blackbirds, The Bobbleheads, David Brookings and Scott Gagner.
It was the late 2016 addition of JEFF SHELTON (The Well Wishers, Hot Nun, ex-Spinning Jennies and host of KSCU's The Power Pop Show) and drummer STU SHADER that pushed TRIP WIRE over the top. What you witness onstage and hear on record now is a trio of top-notch songwriters and players pushing each other to new levels of performance and craft, propelled along by Shader, an absolute monster who's as much fun to watch as he is to hear. Schneider, Shelton, and Hunt trade duties on guitar, bass and lead vocals (sometimes within a single song).
The band's live set draws on Shelton's Well Wishers back catalog. It's a joy to hear those songs (and that voice!) in a wild and wooly live setting, and Hunt's contributions shine as well. Schneider's songs, sung in turn by himself and the others, are the emotive glue holding the polyphony together, and the band play with the chemistry of a group that's been together far longer than they have, and the energy and abandon of teenagers just out of the garage. It's a joy to behold. That live energy informed Cold Gas Giants, which burnished the band's power pop pedigree and evoked the heady heyday of '80's college rock radio and early '90s alt-pop: crunchy echoes of The Replacements and Hüsker Dü, The Posies and Teenage Fanclub, Uncle Tupelo and Wilco at their early, rocking finest were well evident.
The energy spills over into the brand new ONCE & ALWAYS, which roars out of the gate with Schneider's “Had Enough” and Shelton's irresistible “Down” and is replete with giddy melodic rockers like “Bottle Rocket” and the Hunt/Shelton collaboration “Light of the Moon”. But the record quickly reveals itself as the most textured, varied, and (dare one say it?) mature platter in the TRIP WIRE catalog. It evokes at times the early work of The Band filtered through the “No Depression” era of what we now call Americana, with nods back to straight country (“Carolina”), hints of that driving early-R.E.M. jangle (the gorgeous “Act Fast”, written by Schnieder but sung by Shelton, and “Easy Exit”) and even chamber-pop and psych flourishes (“Into the Sound”).
Schneider handles the lion's share of the writing here and he's in fine form, turning in a Warren Zevon-worthy hard luck tearjerker in the form of the subtly string-laden “Golden Gloves”. It's one of a pair of boxing-themed tunes alongside “Get Up Slow” which inspired the art design (from multitalented SF power pop master Scott Gagner). Elsewhere flashes of pedal steel and even a Pixie-evoking theremin broaden the sonic pallet beyond the guitar sound that's the band's bedrock.
ONCE & ALWAYS lives up to its title in its timelessness. It pushes beyond genre labels, but it's a cohesive and engrossing work that invites repeated listening and shows off TRIP WIRE as the treasure of the San Francisco scene that they are. Act fast in deed... this is a band for the ages.