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
Silver/Lead is the 15th studio album from musical pioneers Wire. It arrives on the 40th anniversary of their debut performance. Yet it’s about as far from nostalgia as you could get. This is the sound of a uniquely addictive 21st century psychedelic post-punk.
Colin Newman and Matt Simms’ guitar work is alternately jagged and luminous, while bassist Graham Lewis’s ear-catching lyrics are vivid yet oblique. Meanwhile, drummer Robert Grey provides a virtual masterclass in percussive minimalism. But it’s how the various instruments mesh together that really counts. And Newman’s production cre-ates a sonic space in which even the smallest gesture is accorded some recognition.
Highlights include the optimistic dazzle of ‘Diamonds In Cups’, with its almost T. Rex-style buzz and chug, and the moody swing of ‘This Time’. Elsewhere on the musical spectrum, there’s the menacing widescreen grandeur of ‘Playing Harp for the Fishes’ and breakneck-paced guitar pop of ‘Short Ele-vated Period’.
Wire are one of the world’s most ground-breaking bands, their influence acknowledged by bands as diverse as Blur, Sonic Youth, R.E.M. and Savages. But they have never been interested in exploiting past glories. For Wire, there is only ever one possible direction: forwards. So it’s perhaps not surpris-ing that over recent years, they’ve played strings of sold-out shows, achieved career-best record sales, and been cited as a strong influence by yet another generation of bands. Wire’s last three albums garnered nothing but rave reviews.
From 2013’s strangely beautiful Change Becomes Us (“It’s fantastic.” – Pitchfork) to the crackling motorik of 2015’s Wire (“It’s all really well turned, potent and crisp.” – The Guardian), and last year’s punchy mini-album Nocturnal Koreans (“It's a cracker and sounds defiantly modern.” – The Quietus).
Consequently, although it may be being released on the band’s 40th anniversary, Silver/Lead is an album which has nothing to do with the past and everything to do with the future.
Tracklisting: 1. Playing Harp For The Fishes 2. Short Elevated Period 3. Diamonds In Cups 4. Forever & A Day 5. An Alibi 6. Sonic Lens 7. This Time 8. Brio 9. Sleep On The Wing 10. Silver/ Lead
Right from their inception in 1976, back in the first stirrings of punk, Wire went about making music in a subversive, conceptual way, setting themselves apart from both their peers and their influences. “I had this idea that I wanted to avoid things that had a particular kind of tradition,” explains singer and guitarist Colin Newman. “I thought the three-chord trick was too simplistic and that the one-chord trick would be better. Or the two chord trick where the second chord is definitelynot the right chord.” Bass guitarist and vocalist Graham Lewis identifies another trait that has run throughout the group’s lifetime. “ People said, we were mysterious, arch and dark. But the only way of doing that successfully, is by also having a sense of humour. You have to have that balance. With Wire there’s a peculiarity, a contrariness and that can be funny."
This questing approach has served them well in guarding against repetition and cliché. In context, Wire’s last album, 2013’s aptly titled Change Becomes Us was another case of “Expect the unexpected” as it found them extensively reworking a rich cache of material abandoned amid a temporary break-up in the early 80s.
Their 13th studio album - simply titled Wire – comprises material that was written with the album in mind, but toured extensively first, as well as songs that Newman introduced to the group in the studio just prior to recording. The idea was to get the most spontaneous reaction possible from the musicians, and far from the rough and ready results one might expect from such a tack, Wire is full of swooning pop melodies with a 60s tinge and an irresistible, near motorik rhythmic momentum. One can recognise certain melodic inflections, guitar and bass motifs, and drum rhythms from Wire’s idiosyncratic vocabulary but it has a remarkable freshness. The basic tracks were recorded at Rockfield Studios with overdubs added at Brighton Electric. The 11 tracks selected for release were the ones that came together most naturally.
From the outset Wire was an alliance between four very different characters and continues today with the addition, in 2012, of It Hugs Back guitarist Matthew Simms, who is around thirty years younger than the other group members. “With Matt there was a really new dynamic that had appeared in the group’s sound and that was something we wanted to capture, utilise and be creative with,” says Lewis. Wire is the first album where Simms has been involved in formulating the material from the ground up, but when the group’s particular chemistry starts working he is now very much part of the process.
Lewis provides most of the lyrics for the album, their subject matter encompassing love songs, cryptic narratives and coded messages. One time, Newman asked Lewis to send over some unfinished, unformatted text so he wouldn’t be bound by what to use for the chorus. This material spawned two songs written on the same day, ‘Split Your Ends’ and the droll ‘In Manchester’. The latter has the disorientating and rather absurd situation of having “In Manchester” as a soaring chorus, when the song is not about Manchester beyond a single line in the lyric.
As the album progresses, some of the sunlit pop tunes become more shadowy and it ultimately plunges into the musical black hole of ‘Harpooned’, eight churning minutes of the group’s darkest, most abrasive music to date, and a favourite in live performances since 2013.
“The point where our personal narratives meet is all about change - moving on and keeping it interesting for ourselves,” says Newman. “We’re in it for the long haul and this is a one-way trip.”
Live dates outside the UK will be announced soon.
Tracklisting: 1. BLOGGING (3.46) 2. SHIFTING (3.17) 3. BURNING BRIDGES (3.17) 4. IN MANCHESTER (2.42) 5. HIGH (1.52) 6. SLEEP-WALKING (7.31) 7. JOUST & JOSTLE (2.12) 8. SWALLOW (4.17) 9. SPLIT YOUR ENDS (3.31) 10. OCTOPUS (3.16) 11. HARPOONED (8.23)