Wipers - Is This Real? (1980), 7/10

My unhealthy obsession with Wipers began here and the beginning is a great place to start. From the get-go, "Return of the Rat" is such an incredible opener to a debut, setting the stage with unbridled punk energy accented with Sage’s trademark angst. There are several simplistic driving tunes, something Wipers would always do well, but they are balanced with Sage’s more depressive and existential experiments, both in lyrics and in sound. This is an album that sounds like nothing else from its time, punk or otherwise. Wipers had an interesting aura about them at the start with their eccentric live performances, of course Sage in particular, and made an indelible mark on eighties punk. While their work would expand on the possibilities of the genre, Is This Real? opened that initial door of manipulating their sound and drawing from extremely real, vulnerable experiences to make such affecting music. But the staying power lies in Greg’s songwriting. As solidified later on Over the Edge, he had an enormous talent for hook-crafting and writing songs that are simultaneously dark and jagged, yet surprisingly accessible mimicking pop. His guitar playing is also marvelously noisy in moments and barbed in others. Most tracks are fast paced and jolted with youthful energy, such as other punk of the time, manifested in majority on the “+” side of the record. The “-” side focuses more on the art punk direction that the band was already evolving towards and would fully realize on Youth of America, their psychedelic and grandiose proceeding album. Simple and punchy where it should be, and tragic yet powerful when required. Many of Wipers' best songs come from this singular debut effort, and while others may be more holistic or consistent as albums, none capture the tender, youthful, purely punk spirit that Sage put on display here in quite the same fashion or with such charisma. Undoubtedly one of the most essential punk records.