Down to the Wire with lavish expansions.
In the late 70s, Wire started applying progressive rock questing and arty obliqueness to punk rock’s basic chassis to place themselves in the vanguard of the post-punk movement. They had started 1977 as a coruscating racket at London punk epicentre the Roxy, appearing on the club’s live album. Its producer Mike Thorne saw something in Wire and after they signed to EMI prog stronghold Harvest, he produced that December’s Pink Flag.
The album’s 21-track barrage of short, sharp shocks crackle like one final manifestation of punk’s minimal onslaught, buoyed by art-school lyrics and Buzzcocks catchiness on the Mannequin single. Slower grinds like Reuters and the title track forge templates for the emerging post-punk movement.
Now acting as an Eno-like presence, Thorne’s glacial synths and dramatic keyboards brought prog and psychedelic flavours into August 1978’s transitional Chairs Missing, which had been trailered on 45 by the luminously melodic West Coast vocal harmonies of Outdoor Miner, followed by the mischievously insidious I Am The Fly. While the gentle psychedelic swirls continued on tracks like French Film
Blurred, the punky shouting had been replaced by atmospheric explorations, as on Marooned and Heartbeat, vocally veering into jagged Magazine territory on I Feel Mysterious Today.
September 1979’s toweringly cinematic 154 (named after the number of gigs they’d played so far) is routinely named as Wire’s masterpiece by original fans, starting with the apocalyptic despair of Should Have Known Better. Bassist Graham Lewis’s well-brought-up intoning now often replaced Colin Newman’s cockney-stylised vocals as the album’s panoramic scope embraced bleak Only Ones-like vulnerability, dreamy Syd Barrett surrealism and a propensity for lucid experimentation, along with Thorne’s often dominant synthesisers. It strikes gold in the clanging black hole of The Other Room, oddly poignant A Touching Display and perfectly formed confection Map Ref. 41N 93W.
It had only been two years since that spiky first statement but although Wire were busy mapping out punk’s progressively hued aftershock, their evolution had become so rapid that it derailed them into solo projects for several years.
Spearheaded by the RSD Nine Sevens singles box, each remastered album has been replanted in a lavishly illustrated 80-page hardback book containing further discs of singles, demos, rarities and torrentially prolific demo sessions – well-deserved, consummate monuments to honour this most seminal band (and its perhaps overlooked producer) on the tangled mantelpiece of cutting-edge late-70s British music.
WELL-DESERVED REMASTERS TO HONOUR
A SEMINAL BAND.