Wire: Document and Eyewitness (Pink Flag/Southbound)

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Wire: Eastern Standard
Wire: Document and Eyewitness (Pink Flag/Southbound)

Post-punk arty-smarties Wire have delivered some excellent albums in recent years, notably Red Barked Tree in 2011 and more recently last year's Change Becomes Us for which they went back to tapes from the period covered here as the starting point for new configurations and ideas.

Most people perhaps remember them from this formative period at the end of the Seventies and those three seminal albums Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154. This double CD set catches the last performance of that first four-man line-up and there is real confrontation with their audience which somehow seems to have expected something more pop and elegant than these blistering, noisy, discordant and gutsy attacks on their material. There is literally a bottle thrown and some noisy derision evident.

Added to the raw tape from the Electric Ballroom gig in July '79 are the band member's polite commentary interpolated about what happened (not so intrusive as they interrupt the musical attack-and-release), plus some ragged rehearsal material, both sides of an unreleased single, and some more straightahead/as expected live songs.

This mostly makes for some uneasy listening -- it is at some remove from the emotionally distant polish of those three wonderful albums -- but a reminder of just how different, provocative, visceral and musically reductive they could be.

Not for the fainthearted or the casual listener, but a fascinating document but a pointer to how they became an art project in subsequent decades. 

As the personable Colin Newman told me in advance of a New Zealand date decade ago, "Wire find it hard to perceive themselves as entertainers on any level. It's some kind of performance art but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it."

Some kind of performance art perhaps sums up most of this best. Whether you enjoy it is another matter.

You may feel lucky to get out by the skin of your teeth. 

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