Wire, Last Of The Class Of ’77 British Punk Bands, Returns Anew With A Gorgeous Album

Next year, when Wire celebrates its 40th birthday as a working band, only they and the Fleshtones may be entitled to lay claim to having played CBGB in its prime and still be intact.  Yes, guitarist and guiding spirit Bruce Gilbert left in 2003, but the core of Colin Newman, Robert (Gotobed) Grey, and Graham Lewis have just released their 14th album, the eponymous Wire.  It should be no surprise to readers of Tulip Frenzy that it is melodically beautiful, occasionally thrilling, and completely worthwhile.  We still haven’t listened to the new Calexico, because Wire is the only band we can listen to this week, on our iPad, in the car, at home before the computer.

Forget the Halley’s Comet reunions of the Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols, and even that ephemeral episode where Magazine thrillingly came back from the dead.  Of the British bands who set our ears on fire in the late ’70s, it is only Wire that we have been able to rely on, at least since they reformed in the mid-’80s following their having been dropped by EMI upon the release of their third album, and masterpiece, 154. That album was the most fascinating document of a fascinating era: Wire’s three-chord rhumba having given way to gorgeous Eno-inflected experimentation all within the construct of pop songs, on an album that symbolically closed the punk era they’d helped create by being titled with the address of New York’s preeminent disco.

Since Gilbert left in the early Aughts, his replacement, Matthew Simms, plays with, not against the grain, and sure, something is lost in the process, same as the way Pere Ubu was never the same without Tom Herman, the Stones without Mick Taylor.  But on three successive albums, particularly 2011’s Red Barked Tree, and 2013’s Change Becomes Us, the band has touched past glories and updated the story.  With Wire, the foursome consolidate much of their gains in an upbeat, occasionally beautiful record that is more than a reminder of what has been.

Colin Newman has always been a schizophrenic vocalist as comfortable playing the Cockney punk as the pretty-voiced pop singer.  On the new one, it’s really all the latter, a series of songs for adults to listen to on a late-night car ride when they want to stay awake and engaged but not on edge.  We might not rave about it the way we did Change Becomes Us, but we welcome it, and Wire, as old friends, here for the long haul.

6 Responses to “Wire, Last Of The Class Of ’77 British Punk Bands, Returns Anew With A Gorgeous Album”

  1. I would add Suicide to that list, but just cause they are one of my favorite bands. They certainly didn’t exist continuously from that era till now. I definitely dig Wire. I’ll have to check out 154. I’m more familiar with Pink Flag and Chairs Missing. Also, they had a great song recently which I love…The Agfers of Kodack…something like that. I guess it’s a reference to Agfa film (and, if course, Kodak). Pete Ubu…another great band! Nice post!!! –Paul

    • johnbuckley100 Says:

      Hadn’t thought about Suicide. But aren’t they really just Martin Rev? The Mekons are sort of in the category, but I’m not sure how active they are these days… Anyway, enjoy 154 – and the new one. JB

  2. johnbuckley100 Says:

    “The Agfers of Kodak” is on 2002’s Read & Burn 01 EP, BTW.

  3. […] their first-phase masterpiece, 154, which came out in 1978 and ’79, respectively. We exulted in what a gorgeous record Wire proved to be, but after the string of really strong records they’ve produced since the […]

  4. […] an eight-song mini-album recorded at the same time as last year’s gorgeous Wire, which we called one of 2015’s best albums, and even at a moment when there are fine new albums by Brian Eno, Parquet Courts, Woods, and PJ […]

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