The journey between Adelaide, the port city and capital of South Australia, and Anacortes, Washington spans well over 8,000 miles. It’s a distance that, for the second time in its career, the six members of Adelaide band Wireheads have traveled to record an album, specifically to gain access to K Records/Dub Narcotic/Beat Happening lynchpin Calvin Johnson once more, as a producer for their fourth full-length Lightning Ears.
Wireheads sound like a band accustomed to long journeys, in any case. Touring on their home continent is a significant undertaking, with the three metropolitan areas nearest to Adelaide — Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane — too inconvenient to drive between; one leg of this local tour accounts for nearly 24 hours of nonstop driving, much of it through outback conditions. All of a sudden, the practicalities of a flight nearly halfway around the world doesn’t seem like that much of an undertaking.
Sprawling and rangy, Wireheads waste no time in setting the cadence and holding fast to their dusty march throughout a twangy, ornery post-punk setting. “Technical Man,” the leadoff track from Lightning Ears, approaches the trek through a single-minded four-bar riff, laced with snippets of burning-amp guitar solos, vocalist Dom Trimboli’s rootsy rants about becoming one with the machines and the folly that ensues, and producer Johnson chiming in on backup vocals in his trademark baritone. Both work hard to toughen up the band’s sound, creating the kind of tune you’d expect from the Pixies in their anything-can-happen early days. After the relative despair of their previous album Arrive Alive — despite the miles — with a rootsy energy that delivers on the promise that “Technical Man” offers.