“It seemed like a good idea at the time…,” begins the explanation of Wire’s original motivation for ‘Change Becomes Us’. Not only was it a good idea, it actually turned into a superlative one. In spring 2012, Wire’s plan had been to review the rudimentary blueprints of songs that had never made it beyond a few live performances in 1979 and 1980 – a time when the band-members were in creative overdrive yet the band itself was disintegrating.
The aim wasn’t simply to resuscitate and record old songs; in fact, many of them hadn’t become proper songs in the first place, existing only as basic ideas or undeveloped parts. Rather, the objective was to approach that unrealized work as an oblique strategy, a potential springboard for Wire’s contemporary, forward-looking processes – a possible point of departure for new compositions.
This took place with Wire firing on all cylinders, as a four-piece studio entity again, the core line-up of Newman, Graham Lewis and Robert Grey now enhanced by guitarist Matthew Simms. Out of those sessions and subsequent extensive development and production, the ostensible source material became, in the classic Wire tradition, something quite other than what it may have once been – or what it might have become if it had been pursued in 1980. ‘Love Bends’ is a case in point.
Its roots lie in a raucous, octave-hopping number performed in February 1980 at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, but it’s now morphed, improbably, into an irresistible, totally modern pop song. Just as improbably, the gently lilting ‘Re-invent Your Second Wheel’ is tangentially connected to a performance piece that was mostly shouting and banging, executed by a stageful of Wire cronies in funny hats. Similarly transformed, ‘& Much Besides’ is a six-minute oneiric-melodic interlude that gives no hint of its putative origins in ‘Eastern Standard’ – a dreary, obtuse three-minute track from the Electric Ballroom concert.
Colin Newman’s songwriting and production on ‘Change Becomes Us’ reimagines the past in ways that ultimately break any substantive connection with it, making entirely new pieces – and these songs themselves enact Wire’s restless drive to become other, often thriving on a fundamental tension between opposing sonic characteristics. With its stop-start, soft-hard, quiet-loud structure, ‘Adore Your Island’ veers between prog and unhinged punk rock, never quite resolving itself; the drama of ‘Attractive Space’ hinges on a progressive splitting of the song’s personality, between its calm, expansive, anthemic orientation and an increasing sense of intensity and claustrophobia.
‘Change Becomes Us’ encapsulates the paradoxical essence of Wire’s creativity. The tendency of these new songs to refuse a single, settled identity is emblematic of the band’s ever-evolving aesthetic – one that’s always hinged on sustained tensions and oppositions: between the familiar and the unfamiliar, the comfortable and the unsettling, the melodic and the brutal, the cerebral and the visceral, the smart and the moronic, the obvious and the inscrutable, the rational and the absurd.
This intrinsic, core ambivalence generates the essential otherness that has characterized Wire’s most memorable and distinctive work – from the epochal innovations of ‘Chairs’Missing’ and ‘154’ to the electronic-pop deconstructions of ‘A Bell Is A Cup…’ to the postmodern-punk expressionism of ‘Send’ and the widescreen lyricism of ‘Red Barked Tree’. ‘Change Becomes Us’ is an undeniable part of that illustrious lineage. Definitely more than just a good idea at the time.
Tracklisting: 1. Doubles & Trebles 2. Keep Exhaling 3. Adore Your Island 4. Re-invent Your Second Wheel 5. Stealth Of A Stork 6. B/W Silence 7. Time Lock Fog 8. Magic Bullet 9. Eels Sang 10. Love Bends 11. As We Go 12. & Much Besides 13. Attractive Space
Pink Flag re-issue the legendary 4th Wire album. Released originally on Rough Trade in 1980 , the album was primarily recorded live at a 1979 show. Long unavailable on any format the re-issue features additional unreleased material on a double CD & double vinyl.
For those unfamiliar with Document and Eyewitness, it really doesn’t do it justice to describe it simply as a collection of live recordings from three turn-of-the-80s Wire gigs. What makes it more than that is the unorthodox nature of the main performance and the way it was presented on record.
The centrepiece of the original vinyl release was a recording of the final gig of Wire’s 70s phase. Wire’s set was composed of largely new (and often under-rehearsed) work, accompanied by a series of artistic actions and interventions.
The evening was memorable for the unusually hostile reaction from sections of the audience, which has perhaps elevated it beyond a simple passing moment. If the crowd was expecting a standard gig, the level of outrage, expressed in vociferous abuse suggested that the band’s intentions were lost on those in attendance, who were instead confounded by the apparent artistic pretensions on display. The approach was to couple selected live tracks with a spoken commentary on the proceedings by long-term Wire fans Adrian Garston and Russell Mills. Hence the title, Document and Eyewitness.
For the album, the Electric Ballroom material was supplemented with recordings from a July 1979 show at the Notre Dame Hall (a straightforward band performance), along with one track from a 1979 gig in Montreux.
PF21 CD: Packaged in a square Amaray case with a booklet. Disc 1 has the original album in full. Disc 2 adds two singles (+ B-sides) from the period, plus some rehearsal room recordings unheard for nearly 35 years!
02. 12XU (Fragment)
03. Underwater Experiences
04. Everything's Going to Be Nice
05. Piano Tuner (Keep Strumming Those Guitars)
06. We Meet Under Tables
07. ZEGK HOQP
08. Eastern Standard
09. Instrumental (Thrown Bottle)
10. Eels Sang Lino
11. Revealing Trade Secrets
12. And Then… Coda
13. Go Ahead
14. Ally in Exile
16. Underwater Experiences
17. Witness to the Fact
18. 2 People in a Room
19. Our Swimmer
Tracks 01-12 from Electric Ballroom.
Tracks 13-19 from Notre Dame Hall.
Track 20 from Montreux.
01. Our Swimmer
02. Midnight Bahnhof Cafe
03. Second Length (Our Swimmer)
04. Catapult 30
05. Ally in Exile
06. Go Ahead
07. Remove for Improvement V2
08. Over My Head V2
11. Underwater Experiences
12. Eels Sang Lino
13. Cancel Your Order
14. Part of Our History (emerges)
Tracks 01-02 from "Our Swimmer" (1981) single.
Tracks 03-04 from an unreleased 1981 single.
Track 05: a personal recording from Jan. 1979 in Cadaqués, Spain.
Tracks 06-14: Wire rehearsal recordings from 1979 and 1980.
PF21 LP: Packaged in a gatefold sleeve.
Disc 1 is the same as the original vinyl, albeit remastered and re-edited.
Disc 2 features the original selection from the Notre Dame Hall show on side one and the two singles and B-sides on side two.
Having completed a preliminary round of work on their eponymous 2015 album at Rockfield Studios,Wire found themselves with 19 tracks. Among them, there was a critical mass of 11 aesthetically unified songs. In typical Wire fashion, however, the remaining material was something other: it had the sound of a band already moving in a different direction, beyond the album project in which they were engaged at that time.
These tracks were the basis for Nocturnal Koreans. The difference between the two clusters of work birthed at Rockfield has its roots in discrete approaches to the studio process itself. Nocturnal Koreans emphasises studio construction over authentic performance, using the recording environment as an instrument, not just as a simple means of capturing Wire playing.
Although it’s become de rigueur to talk about Wire’s capacity for self-reinvention, that’s never the whole story. Certainly, the impulse to pursue fresh ideas with each phase of work is buried deep in their artistic DNA, but they’ve balanced that commitment to the new with a core character and attitude that’s always at some level recognisable as Wire—without being reducible to a formulaic sound.
It’s this enduring dialectic that gives Wire their unique sta-tus as a long-established band that continues to forge ahead with original music: always unmistakably Wire but al-ways reimagined and reframed with each successive project.
Tracklisting: 1. Nocturnal Koreans 2. Internal Exile 3. Dead Weight 4. Forward Position 5. Numbered 6. Still 7. Pilgrim Trade 8. Fishes Bones
At a time when back catalogue outsells fresh creativity and newcomers achieve fame by adding a lick of paint to their parents’ record collections, it’s unusual to find a band who, despite plying their trade for decades, are willing and able to make new work that’s as vital and relevant as their own illustrious past recordings.
Wire are such a band, and with ‘Red Barked Tree’ they have succeeded in making a statement that will sound as strong in 30 years as their celebrated historical oeuvre does today.
‘Red Barked Tree’ rekindles a lyricism sometimes absent from Wire’s previous work and reconnects with the live energy of performance, harnessed and channelled from extensive touring over the past few years. ‘Red Barked Tree’ was conceived, written and recorded mostly during 2010 by the pared-down lineup of Colin Newman, Graham Lewis and Robert Grey -- with no guests.
Ranging from the hymnal ‘Adapt’ to the barking sledgehammer art-punk of ‘Two Minutes’, the album encompasses the full range of style and nuance that has always endeared Wire to pastel-tinged pop aficionados and bleeding-edge avant-rockers alike.
Whatever Wire make is Wire music: this is the band’s enigmatic guiding axiom. While Wire remain agnostic about the nature and identity of their aesthetic essence, it’s always been instantly recognisable, manifesting itself throughout their heterogeneous work.
This enigma waits be revealed among the ‘Red Barked Trees’ … In 2011, to support the album alongside a full media campaign, Wire will be touring in Australia and New Zealand (January), Europe (February and March) and USA and Canada (April), with festival appearances through the summer. Further European, Asiatic and American adventures are planned through to the end of 2011 and well into 2012. Tracklisting: Side A: