It's hard to imagine that it's been nearly three decades since the
first Wire record, Pink Flag, was released. It's even
harder to imagine where modern music would be without the obvious
influence that the early post-punk Wire recordings had on the musical
world. Listening back to these first three records it is blatantly
obvious that much of the current crop of rock musicians owe a huge
debt to Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, Robert Grey
and Bruce Gilbert and their unique avant garde approach to
rock and roll, much in the same way that modern rock owes much to
Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground.
Pinkflag, a label run by the band Wire themselves, is the force behind
this crop of new releases of the first three classic Wire records.
Each of these re-issues has been restored to its original vinyl release
track listing, erasing the damage done by bonus tracks and previously
re-issued versions. The public finally gets to hear the albums exactly
like we got to hear them in 1977, 1978, and 1979, but with the clarity
and noiselessness (no hissing or popping) of compact disc. Each of
the cds includes artwork that replicates the original vinyl sleeves,
and contains a twelve-page booklet detailing the recording and development
of each album and includes some cool never-before-seen photographs.
That's all fine and good, I know. But the greatest thing about these
re-issues is the music. It is difficult to imagine the bands that
I really listened to in the late 70's/ early 80's existing in the
forms that they did without the influence of Wire. Joy Division
- all the Factory bands, really - Adam And The Ants, Devo,
even though these bands were contemporaries,
none of them would have been able to take the musical roads they had
taken without the pioneering steps of Wire. Pink Flag is a
testament to not only that pioneering influence, but also to the sounds
of the time. With its 21 tracks - longer songs separated by short,
sketchy segments - Pink Flag flirts with the boundaries of
punk rock, but draws more melody and musical continuity into its envelope.
Chairs Missing moves a bit further from punk rock, making more
melodic moves and drawing inspirations from the obscure psychedelia
of the late 60's. The music is smoother and shows a maturity rare
for a sophomore album. By the time of 1979's 154, Wire was
becoming a dominant force, and their music was relying more on a power
of subtle variation. The songs had expanded in sonic density, as well
as length, with "A Subtle Display" clocking in at just under
seven minutes, and songs included rhythms and instrumentation that
were fresh to the band's sound.
It is easy to see, in retrospect, why Wire has long been considered
one of the benchmark bands of the late 70's post punk movement.
Not only are these re-issues fun to listen to as a trip down memory
lane, but they also serve as an encyclopedic recording of the times,
the technology, and much of the general musical attitude of the
time. There are lessons in these albums to be learned by new generations
of musicians and critics alike. And on top of all that, this is
just fine music that deserves to be heard again, as it was originally
released back when I was young.
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