Colin Newman
By: Erik Davis | Categories: HiLo Heroes

Colin Newman — with Wire in 1978

Colin Newman — with Wire in 1978

Now that the radical punch of punk seems no more potent than a daisy in a National Guardsman’s rifle, the artsy-fartsy fundament of its posture has become as evident — and as significant — as its street snarl. The fact that COLIN NEWMAN (born 1954) formed Wire with pals in art school, or that his lyrics are saturated with avant-garde influences, does not undermine punk’s bid for negative authenticity; it is the bid. “Anger is an energy,” sang a post-Pistols John Lydon; for Newman (who, like Mission of Burma’s Roger Miller, sings like he’s thinking and dodging thought at the same time), anger is a gesture: the slice of the cut-up, the quick jab of intelligence itself, “intended to pierce.” Wire’s early records not only mapped and scrambled the zone between punk and post-punk, but between tone-deaf riffage and “atonality”: the burst of skronk in Chairs Missing’s safety-pinned grinder “Sand in My Joints” is a case in point. Newman’s post-Wire work continued this hi-lo tango, juxtaposing scintillating pop hooks and odd formal experiments, like all-instrumental auto-remixes named after fish. Landing, the forthcoming record from Newman’s latest band, Githead, is razorsharp and driving, though it lacks snot.

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PUNK, POST-PUNK & ALTERNATIVE on HILOBROW: Joey Ramone | Dez Cadena | Jello Biafra | HR | Mike Watt | Vivienne Westwood | Iggy Pop | D. Boon | John Lydon | Henry Rollins | Palmolive | Plastic Bertrand | Kira Roessler | Lisa Carver | Frank Black | Ari Up | Gary Panter | Paul Simonon | Darby Crash | Penelope Houston | Exene Cervenka | Sid Vicious | Andrew Eldritch | Kate Pierson | Paul Westerberg | Lux Interior | Ian Dury | Stiv Bators | Tom Verlaine | Colin Newman | Johnny Thunders | Poison Ivy | Green Gartside | Lydia Lunch | Mark E. Smith | David Byrne | Debbie Harry | Captain Sensible | Mark Mothersbaugh | Kim Gordon | ALSO: The Original Generation X (1954–63) and the birth of DIY | The Original Stooge | Origin of the Pogo | Shocking Blocking: Rock’n’Roll High School | Punk fanzines from the 1970s | Post-Punk and New Wave on HiLobrow

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: | Seth | Mildred Harnack Fish | Korla Pandit |

READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Boomer (1944–53) Generation and the Original Generation X (1954–63).

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Erik Davis is the author, most recently, of The Visionary State: A Journey through California’s Spiritual Landscape and Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica. Davis also wrote the cult classic TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Information Age, and a critical volume on Led Zeppelin’s fourth album. A frequent speaker and teacher at universities and festivals alike, Davis hosts a weekly net radio show called Expanding Mind (davis.progressiveradionetwork.org), and posts regularly at www.techgnosis.com.