Archive for Colin Newman

Wire Plays A Pearl Of A Well-Made Show At D.C.’s Black Cat

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 7, 2015 by johnbuckley100

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Almost 40 years since creating the most intriguing, and in many ways, long-lasting debut of the punk era, Wire came to DC last night to play a show that was sinewy, powerful, and occasionally transcendent. From the opening “Blogging” — which kicks off their eponymous 2015 album Wire — to the gorgeous encore close of “Used To” from 1978’s Chairs Missing, Wire proved they are no oldies act.  This was one of the strongest shows we’ve seen in years, old masters comfortable in their skins, who can still show the young ‘uns a trick or two.

When you’ve been around as long as Wire, there are distinct eras, or at least clusters of albums connected by time and personnel.  What’s most delightful about the Wire of today is that, like Dylan on his great run between Oh Mercy and Modern Times, they’ve shown themselves at ease working within the construct that made them great as young men, while still putting out music more vital than most other working bands.  With 2011’s Red Barked Tree, 2013’s Change Becomes Us, and this year’s Wire, their output is, sure, not as “important” as 154 was in 1979.  But that’s like saying Love and Theft isn’t as important as Bringing It All Back Home.  Who cares? Wire’s most recent albums make the case for one of the most vital acts in rock music history, and it’s an exceptionally high quality output for any band, not to mention one formed in 1976.

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Robert (Gotobed) Grey and Graham Lewis still have the metronomic precision of the Atomic Clock, and it was a joy to hear Lewis sing “Please Take” and “Blessed State.”  Grey looks like a beatific and elongated version of Jeff Bezos, closing his eyes in meditation as he directs the band with the certainty of a Swiss train conductor. Colin Newman has always done double duty as an effective punk shouter and a pretty pop singer; harder to do these days live, but all in, his voice was fine.  What was really fun to see was how young Matthew Simms can extend and augment Newman’s guitar playing, occasionally playing these John McGeoch-like leads, often letting Newman carry the song on his electric 12-string.

Many years ago, when assigned to review Document And Eyewitness for NY Rocker, and thinking that the band was kaput (they broke up in 1980, only to come back five years later), we said that Wire was at its most interesting precisely at the moment when its reach exceeded its grasp.  That was true then, but there’s little outside its grasp today.  Last night’s show at The Black Cat saw a band pulling off the hardest trick imaginable: playing a set mostly with songs from albums four decades into their run, leaving no room for nostalgia.

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

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 17, 2015 by johnbuckley100

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.

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