Post-punks’ sem­i­nal first three LPs re­vis­ited.

Q (UK) - - Contents - JOHN HAR­RIS

The ul­ti­mate out­siders’ first three al­bums reis­sued in all their post-punk glory.


As he re­calls in the sleevenotes that ac­com­pany these reis­sues, the writer Jon Sav­age first saw Wire in the spring of 1977, and wrote a re­view for the mu­sic weekly Sounds. “They short­cir­cuit the au­di­ence to­tally, play­ing about 20 num­bers, most around one minute long,” he said. “The au­di­ence doesn’t know when one has fin­ished and an­other is be­gin­ning.” Such was Wire’s ini­tial shock treat­ment, but what fol­lowed those first ex­per­i­men­tal bursts was the un­fold­ing of a whole new mu­si­cal world. By the au­tumn of that year, punk’s ini­tial promise of a mu­si­cal revo­lu­tion had started to be­come swamped by the re­turn of what Sav­age ma­ligns as “four man rock’n’roll with all the old druggy ar­ro­gance and dull machismo”, which made Wire’s de­but al­bum Pink Flag all the more timely. In keep­ing with the band’s art-school roots, its 21 tracks de­con­structed the ba­sic class-of-’ 76 in­gre­di­ents of cranked-up gui­tars and short, sharp song­writ­ing, to the point that songs such as Mr Suit and Straight Line al­most sound like satires, while Reuters and the taut, in­ex­pli­ca­bly funny Three Girl Rhumba are ef­fec­tively the de­fin­i­tive first stir­rings of what would come to be known as post-punk. The fol­low-up, 1978’ s Chairs Miss­ing, added more colours – not least on Out­door Miner, whose 105 glo­ri­ous sec­onds (stretched on the sin­gle ver­sion to nearly three min­utes) make up one of the most per­fect man­i­fes­ta­tions of artful pop mu­sic ever recorded by any­one. On 154, re­leased in 1979, the mu­sic be­came even more am­bi­tious. The 15th is a lush, gleam­ing high­point that sug­gests that Wire could have con­ceiv­ably bro­ken into the main­stream, though the cav­ernous sound and or­nate words on A Touch­ing Dis­play and The Other Win­dow are the work of prickly out­siders. The ques­tion of where they might have gone next hangs over all of its 13 tracks, but di­ver­gent ideas and per­sonal ten­sions led

A group way ahead of its time, whose in­flu­ence wove it­self into no end of mu­sic.

to 154 be­ing Wire’s last stu­dio al­bum un­til 1987. All three al­bums are newly avail­able in their orig­i­nal form, but new spe­cial edi­tions – avail­able only on CD – come with vo­lu­mi­nous col­lec­tions of ex­tra tracks. The Chairs Miss­ing ma­te­rial is some­times rev­e­la­tory: among other high­lights, an early try-out of I Am The Fly is more ten­ta­tive and hu­man than the fin­ished ver­sion, sound­ing more like a sigh of muted de­spair than the shout of de­fi­ance it later be­came. With­out the grandios­ity of the fin­ished al­bum, de­mos of the songs from 154 sound much more like the mu­sic that pre­ceded it, and thereby join the dots to an al­bum that in its fin­ished in­car­na­tion sug­gested a sud­den jump into new ter­ri­tory. What runs through ev­ery­thing is a sense of a group way ahead of its time, whose in­flu­ence wove it­self into no end of mu­sic, from The Jam and Joy Di­vi­sion, to the more in­ter­est­ing as­pects of the Brit­pop pe­riod. 154 was a big touch­stone for Manic Street Preach­ers when they recorded The Holy Bi­ble; circa 2004-5, bands such as Franz Fer­di­nand, Bloc Party and The Fu­ture­heads reawak­ened their in­flu­ence – proof that Wire were now as al­most as cen­tral a part of the English rock canon as any num­ber of big­ger names. The af­ter­life of this mu­sic, then, was huge and long-last­ing, though if you prop­erly im­merse your­self in it, that thought might take sec­ond place to some­thing ev­ery bit as im­por­tant: the fact these are sim­ply some of the most ex­cit­ing, creative, fas­ci­nat­ing al­bums you’ll ever hear. Lis­ten To: Three Girl Rhumba | Out­door Miner | I Am The Fly | The 15th

Wire in 1978 (from left, Gra­ham Lewis, Colin New­man, Bruce Gil­bert, Robert Grey): “Ex­cit­ing, creative, fas­ci­nat­ing.”

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