Posts Tagged ‘wire’

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Wire Brush

February 7, 2017

Of all the bands that followed in the slipstream created by the Sex Pistols’ sonic boom, one of the most interesting is Wire.


Where the Pistols raged with a stomping glam rock fury and The Clash spat socio-political lyrics ten to the dozen, Wire were simpler. There’s no meat on their records, nothing that doesn’t need to be there. They’re packed full of lean, mean, short, sharp shocks. Rhythm and counter-rhythm live easily beside one another. Chunky, concrete block riffs drop in and out to allow vocals, backing vocals and chanted slogans the space to breath. Solos are kept to an absolute bare minimum.

There’s no need for showboating when you’re in Wire. The showboating comes from the fact you’re in Wire to begin with.

No songs outstay their welcome, either. Much of the material on debut album ‘Pink Flag‘ is over before it’s barely begun. ‘Field Day For The Sundays‘ lasts barely half a minute before it’s gone. ‘Three Girl Rhumba‘ pushes the boat out to 1 min 20 seconds. At 2 mins 37 secs, debut single ‘Mannequin‘ is a prog-bothering epic in comparison.

WireMannequin

WireDot Dash

Had I first heard ‘Pink Flag‘ on LP rather than CD, I’d’ve been up and out my chair like Sur Alex chasing a flag-happy linesman to check there was nothing wrong with my record. And, just for the, er, record, no ma’am, there ain’t nothing wrong with the record. It’s a fantastic example of art/punk. Songs start. Then stop. New ones start again. Then stop abruptly. Tracks run into one another, all delivered in accents last heard when Gripper Stebson was terrorising Tucker Jenkins in Grange Hill. “Is this still the same song?” “I dunno!” you’ll answer yourself. By the time you’ve worked it out, the band are onto their next song.

WirePink Flag

WireLow Down

‘From A to B, again avoiding C, D and E. Cos E is where you play the bloooooze.’

There’s yer Wire manifesto right there. Two chords and the truth. Discipline. That’s what Low Down is. How many other bands could’ve resisted sticking a one note feedbacking ‘whuuuuuooooo‘ in the middle of it? Not Wire. Instead, they stick a great, echoing chord over it for a few bars. Keen ears will spot that it’s not a million miles away from that big clanging one in the breakdown of Primal Scream’s Loaded. Brutal and minimalist. Over and out.

How many other bands can claim a debut album that boasts 21 songs? By the time reissues were an accepted part and parcel of the music industry, the track listing on ‘Pink Flag‘had multiplied to an eye-watering, ear-saturating 38 tracks, including non-album singles and Peel Sessions.

wire-line-up

Famously, Elastica stole great chunks of their most well-known tracks – I Am The Fly and Three Girl Rhumba – which I’ve written about before, here. A quick listen to Wire will make you appreciate where many other 90s and 00s bands were coming from. I’m sure the Holy Bible-era Manics were not unfamiliar with Wire’s uncompromising sound. Franz Ferdinand and The Cribs too. Graham Coxon scuffed the edges of Blur’s most abrasive tracks, not to mention much of his own solo recordings, with steroidal Wire-like riffage. Even the Lord God of Indie Guitar, Johnny Marr, has heard their angular twang and thought, “I’m borrowing some of that.” A quick listen to his more recent solo stuff will qualify that, not so much in sound but in lip curled, Fender-toting, noo wave attitoode.

The anglophile Peter Buck dug Wire so much he persuaded REM to cover Pink Flag‘s Strange on breakthrough album Document. It’s a great version too.

REMStrange

Contrast and compare…

WireStrange

Pink Flag by Wire. Everyone should have this album. It may be forty years old this year, but it’s never too late to get on board.

wire

 

 

 

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Nick Wire

July 31, 2013

With their jagged, juddering, short, sharp, post-punk riffs, Wire were always ripe for rip-off. And so, along came Elastica

Three girls, one guy and a couple of borrowed Wire tunes:

  • Justine Frischmann. Brash, floppy-fringed, posh-parented and on/off squeeze of both Damon Albarn and Brett Anderson simultaneously. Charmingly, one would leave love bites on her backside for the other to find. But you knew that already.
  • Donna Matthews. Pouting, doe-eyed indie-boy poster girl who’s guitar always looked a bit too big for her.  Partook in way too much heroin.
  • Annie Holland. Razor-cheekboned bass player. The quiet one.
  • Justin Welch. Clem Burke-esque drummer who belched his way through Top 20 hit Line Up. Also partook in too many pills ‘n powders.

elastica signed

With their classic 2 guitars, bass and drums set-up and songs pilfered from post-punk’s recent past, Elastica were no different at all from any other provincial rehearsal room band. They were formed by Frischmann after she advertised for musicians ‘influenced by The Fall, The Stranglers, and Wire’, (something that would come back to haunt them) and when they came on the scene, the London-centric media held them up as the next big thing, helped in no small way through an endorsement by King Steve of Lamacq, Radio 1 DJ, label boss and indie uberlord. Elastica received far more column inches in the music press than any new band really had the right to. Rave review followed rave review. Cover followed cover. The public bought it and before you knew it, Elastica were the next big thing.

elastica

They couldn’t handle it though.  The simple ratio of too many drugs and not enough songs caused the band to implode. For Elastica, it would be a long stretch (aye!) before their second, long-since forgotten about LP.  5 years it took them to release it (a lifetime in the fickle, fad-dominated world of pop music), hot on the heels of a gap-filling mini LP of sorts. Then nothing.

elastica connection

Back to the debut album though. It fizzes with gay punk-pop abandon. Choc-full of those jagged, juddering, short, sharp post-punk riffs. Connection was the biggy. Number 17 with a bullet and proof, if any were needed, that Elastica were a bona fide chart success.

Proof, too, that Wire‘s Pink Flag LP was a regular rotator on the Elastica turntable. Here’s Three Girl Rhumba. The thieving mapgpies.

elastica line up

The belching drummer-enhanced opener Line Up was another.

Ever heard I Am the Fly by Wire? (Wait for the chorus…)

Elastica certainly had. The thieving magpies.

stranglers

Another crime was committed in the name of biggest hit single Waking Up, it’s twanging see-saw riff and chord structure totally ripping off The StranglersNo More Heroes.

Elastica just about stopped short of adding a bouncing Farfisa, but they were fooling no-one.

elastica waking up

And there are others. The album’s S.O.F.T. somehow manages to sound like most of The PixiesDoolittle LP in less than 4 minutes.  Vaseline‘s chorus could be Debbie Harry’s finest moment. Pop pilferers who got lucky. That just about sums Elastica up. Both The Stranglers and Wire secured out-of-court settlements for all of Elastica’s sticky-fingered troubles. Quite rightly too. it just goes to show, recycle any old tosh from the past and if it’s presented as the best thing ever since the last best thing ever, the gullible will buy it. You should seek out Wire’s Pink Flag if you haven’t heard it, though. You’d like it. S’a cracker.

Wire-1977-Pink-Flag

*Elastica Trivia!

Countdown fans may be able to work this out quicker than others, but who d’you think played keyboards on half the tracks on the first album? T’was none other than Dan Abnormal. Think about it…

 

 

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