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    Pink Flag ( 1977 )
    Reuters / Field Day For The Sundays / Three Girl Rhumba / Ex Lion Tamer / Lowdown / Start To Move / Brazil / It's So Obvious / Surgeon's Girl / Pink Flag / The Commercial / Straight Line / 106 Beats That / Mr Suit / Strange / Fragile / Mannequin / Different To Me / Champs / Feeling Called Love / 12xU

    EMI, after their fall-out with The Sex Pistols, were quite welcoming towards punk bands for awhile, there. This benefitted Wire, but what was strange was placing Wire on Harvest, EMI's early seventies progressive rock imprint. Eventually, this placing would seem somehow appropriate. Not that Wire have very much in common with progressive rock, initially. Yet, they do indeed 'progress'. 28 songs ranging from just over 3 minutes to just under 30 seconds in length. The band themselves have said some songs happened like that because 'we ran out of words'. Personally, I feel that's being a little mischeivous. Let's take the 28 second long song, 'Field Day For The Sundays'. In the 28 short seconds it lasts, it actually packs in a lot of words, words that also have a point. In this case, raging against the tabloid press. The playing of Wire seems to be angular and cold. It seems to be tight and precise. This is somewhat remarkable given that upon entering the studio, Wire had little virtuosity, or anything even approaching that. They took their album sessions seriously, practice honed the songs down, vocals were recorded live to retain a certain feel. Etc, etc. They stretched themselves to their then limits with some of the material here, song structures that aren't at all usual. Yet all at the same time, they managed to maintain a 'punk' sound. Of the twenty eight songs here, not a one sounds out of place. This is one of the albums selling points. Wire apparently set down in their basement working out the running order for the original vinyl release, before entering the studio. Eg, they knew which songs were going to start side one, side two. Which songs would end. They threw together the running order instinctively, then plotted to make it even more seamless, to give the individual tracks some kind of context. This is just as well, as there is seemingly little variety here. The endless onslaught of brief, speedy guitar tracks does eventually wear you down, yet relief is present through the lighter songs. Through the more 'dirge like' songs. Your interest, should it threaten to wane, will nearly always come back. Yes, right through to the end of the album. A minor niggle then, that this is a record that requires concentration, but that's just one of many ways in which Wire distanced themselves from their more typically punk, peers.

    The longest song here, the three minute fifty eight second long 'Strange' was covered by REM. You wanted to know that, didn't you? It one of the songs here that's needed to break up the shorter songs, the songs that rush past you. 'Fragile' follows the downbeat 'Strange' by being probably the most happy sounding, delicate 'punk' song you could ever wish for. 78 seconds of pop perfection. 'Mr Suit' starts with a proper rock 'one two three four' intro! Hell yeah! The opening 'Reuters' is all dirge, so they follow it with three more melodic songs, climaxing with 'Ex Lion Tamer', such a wonderful song! Lots of guitars and melody. Can't beat it! Oh, OH! Another favourite song of mine here appears as track 17, 'Mannequin'. It's tight, the guitar line plays a little nice melody and the vocal and lyric are both surpremely engaging. No, not everything here works, 18 tracks is a lot to consistently hold you with, no matter what the tracks length. We desire a few more different sounds along the way than the admittedly tight and super little guitar, bass and drum sounds that do come across our way. 'Pink Flag' is an impressive beast, all in all. Yet, one or two little flaws are to be considerated. Wire would work upon these and get it right.

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    Readers Comments

    mahtain, brownplus@yahoo.com
    I was really pleasantly surprised to find your site...you got it down like cristgau of village vice man!...but, gee i gotta give you bite for pink flag...after going uh huh, uh huh yeaH to your lips/wedding present/strokes/polvo/parsons and on and on et all...i gotta jerk this wire to a 9.5...maybe you need immersion in it? Some others not listed but with A+ possibilities are Guided by Voices (earleir stuff like Bee 1000), Archers of Loaf (polvos pop cousins) and Husker Du's New Day Rising...oh well, we all know their 10's anyway, but keep up the good work and whatever happened to the seminal Latin Playboys? thanx

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    Chairs Missing 9 ( 1978 ) more best albums...
    Practice Makes Perfect / French Film Blurred / Another The Letter / Men 2nd / Marooned / Sand In My Joints / Being Sucked In Again / Heartbeat / Mercy / Outdoor Miner / I Am The Fly / I Feel Mysterious Today / From The Nursery / Used To / Too Late

    Less songs, longer song lengths. Indeed, it makes more sense to call certain numbers here 'songs', something that couldn't always be said of some of the more simplistic guitar numbers from the admittedly mightily impressive 'Pink Flag'. Overall, the differences here are Wire incorporate keyboard sounds and experiment with sound and sonic textures. The lyrics generally take their cue from the albums title, a clear reference towards mental illness. This isn't a bleak record, however. Oh, sure, the lyrics do cover some darker themes than the debut, but there is relief along the way, rest assured. Indeed, it's the variation present on this set that distinguishes it most from the debut 'Pink Flag'. We've a few numbers here clearly cut from the same cloth, a few other numbers using keyboard sounds to reach into new areas and other songs stretching the initial Wire blueprint through a mixture of intelligent thought and impressive musical realisation. For example, i'm always a sucker for songs like 'I Am The Fly', wherby the music evokes the lyrics of the song. The songs distinctive introduction, the overall guitar sound and overall integration of electronic treatments do perfectly evoke, well, something 'fly-like'. Even the vocals bring to mind the buzzing of an irritant fly. The song is catchy, another clever subversion. Preceding this on the album is another nod towards pop song structures, 'Outdoor Miner'. Though, in contrast to the playful harshness of 'I Am The Fly', 'Outdoor Miner' contains genuinely beautiful melodies, lovely harmonies and all without losing the edge that this early era of Wire generally presents us with. Another switch in style arrives with 'Used To', a minimalist song brought to life with the aid of a simple keyboard drone, that combined with the vocals, still manages to sound anything but half-formed.

    Despite the variety of styles present on this record, somehow, it still all manages to be a cohesive album listening pleasure. The song order helps this become a more rounded project than otherwise it may have been. From the harsh metallic opener right through to the closing, 'Pink Flag' resembling 'Too Late'. Of course, delights inbetween, several of which i've already mentioned. "Is it ever appealing / to stand on the ceiling?" asks the mischievous and funny 'I Feel Mysterious Today'. 'Chairs Missing' spectacularly resists easy summing up, so that's about as good a way as any to leave you.

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    Readers Comments

    Whats remarkable is how lauded pink flag is while chairs missing is a much stronger record. Its more diverse and expressive and has a real sonic power that the 1st doesnt. I mean tracks here touch on prog rock and free jazz on "former airline" "outdoor miner" and "i am the fly" are probably the bands best pop tunes . Blur,new order,MBV , elastica and many others have been influenced by this group. Chairs missing is the album to start with if youre interested in this band.

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    154 ( 1979 )
    I Should Have Known Better / Two People In A Room / The 15th / The Other Window / Single KO / A Touching Display / On Returning / A Mutual Friend / Blessed State / Once Is Enough / Map Ref 41 N 93 W / Indirect Enquiries / 40 Versions

    What I like about the first three Wire albums is how they clearly take you along with the band on their own artistic journey. Each one has a foot both in the bands immediate past and immediate future. Well, the bands future would be some way off after 154, their next studio album as a grouping not appearing for some years. Yet, '154' clearly carries on the move away from punk music. The synthesizer elements are stronger, the weird noises are stronger. We've still got a hatful are sublime melodies, though. It makes '154' a satisfyingly varied album overall. Like all Wire records, it takes a long time to digest, but also like ( nearly ) all Wire records, it's well worth putting the time in. The band were less cohesive as a unit than ever before, one quick glance at the writing credits says it all. Yet, you'd never guess this particularly from listening to the finished product. We've a few experimental, artsy pieces here such as 'A Touching Display'. It's not really a song at all as such, although it does have a definite, defined structured. Rather it's a sound painting, everything including vocals is there seemingly for effect and sound alone. A similar track arrives with 'The Other Window'. These two songs taken alone can be easily dismissed I suppose, yet we really must try to take them in the wider context of the album overall. The song immediately before the lonely drone of 'The Other Window' is 'The 15th', a genuinely lovely pop melody combined with those patented intelligent yet still accessible Wire lyrics. 'On Returning', the shortest song here sits right after the near seven minute 'A Touching Display'. Bar the keyboard flourishes replacing the old 'Pink Flag' guitar assault, this could almost be a 'Pink Flag' tune. Well, almost, yeah. A pop song? How about 'Map Ref 41n 93w', a song that really did deserve to place Wire in the top 40. I adore the lyrics here, interrupting my train of though, lines of longitude and lattitude.... define..... my attitudes. . Helpfully preceeded with an annoucement by the singer CHORUS! Excellent.

    Another highlight to sit on anyone's 'Best Of Wire'? 'I Should Have Known Better'. Another drone as such, but punctuated with dramatic blasts of guitar and drums, keyboards adding to the ghostly and damn scary atmosphere. Turn it up loud to really appreciate the vocals, too. A great excersize in studied and controlled dramatics, 'I Should Have Known Better' works on all levels, art and arms stretched, eyes out-wide enjoyment. The speedy 'Two People In A Room'. No guitars at all for '40 Versions', a song at least two or three years ahead of its time, it seems. Not so much post-punk as new-wave. Did Wire know what they were doing and how influential each one of their first three albums would turn out to be? Of course they didn't, that's a stupid question. Did they conciously plan the albums to sound different from their peers? Possibly. It's a good job they turned out this way, anyhow. These Wire albums still sound fresh, 'Chairs Missing' and '154' more so than 'Pink Flag', funnily enough. All three are great though. If you see the box-set of these, get it. That's it, that's enough.

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    Readers Comments

    andre4999 GSO, USA
    as the biggest fan of individual-minded or rather self-made original music, wire rests squarely on top with a few neighbors. while i agree with mah-tain on pink flag (i too was convinced that was their best) I find time has led me to revel in the 154's smoothness and unity. it's not perfect...but so few albums are (maybe sonic youths sister or kinks vgps) but anyway!....this is one hell of an overlooked (in usa anyway) cd that grows and grows as you listen. I hear eno/roxy/ornette come together and sound nothing like those mentioned at all. It's still fresh, its what got joy d/new order/rem/arcade fire/ blah blah blah...OFF and going. artrawk to rival VU. boil down their first 3 albums to a long cd and you got an island disc par few.

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    this page last updated 11/03/09

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