Seething since 2000*
As mentioned previously, one definition of an EP is a record whose length is between 10 and 35 minutes. If this was the case (and I think we’re all pretty clear on where I stand re this definition), then Wire’s first three albums would all be considered EPs, despite the fact that each one contains at least 15 songs (their debut album clocks in at 35 minutes exactly – 21 songs). This astonishing trilogy (Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 541) has traditionally been analysed in its entirety, and what an entirety it is. Listen to these albums today and you’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve just been released. 1977’s Pink Flag, with its massive opening track “Reuters”, was an incredible statement of intent, followed within a year by the equally delightful Chairs Missing, with the edgy and experimental nose bleeder 541 brining up the rear in 1979. If Wire had failed to release any more records (they have in fact, many more) then that would still have been okay. Holy wow. Each of the first three albums veered effortlessly between sharp-edged punk (“12XU”), art rock (“Outdoor Miner”), moody experimentalism (“A Mutual Friend”), erm, sharp-edged punk (“106 Beats That”), art rock (“Map Ref. 41?N 93?W”) and – you guessed it – moddy experimentalism (every other track). Not enough said. I’ve just got two words: Elastica. Remember “Connection”? Well that’s “Three Girl Rhumba”, ripped off. And now there’s an even more blatant cover version doing the rounds that’s saved from oblivion mostly because of the interesting video clip. Word for freaking word, line for freaking line. Wire are one of those bands who manage to influence everyone. My Bloody Valentine covered “Map Ref. 41?N 93?W” (can’t remember when) which is convenient for me. One song on “Chairs Missing” even prefigures Midnight Oil’s “Beds Are Burning”. Then again, one can never really isolate influences. I mean, that Elastica song’s synth riffs also sounded like “Funky Town”. Figure that out when you have time. Anyway, Wire are in Melbourne this weekend, I’m hoping I can afford to go. Wire, for me, is the coolest of the punk survivors, outshining the Buzzcocks, the Jam, the Clash, the Sex Pistols. They’ve released some absolute shockers (like, most of the 1980s albums, despite the slight reprieve provided by A Bell Is A Cup Until It Is Struck) but they’re hard-core. On a tour of the US they apparently hired a support band, called them the “Ex-Lion Tamers” after a song on Chairs Missing and then basically got them to play Pink Flag in its entirety every night of the tour as the opening act. You can’t get more arty than that. Oh, hang on: for a brief time in the 1990s, when one of the band members left, the remaining members changed the band’s name to “Wir”. Get it? Brilliant.