Wire fuses sonic notions
- John Chandler
- Portland Tribune - Features
London 'art punks' always make current aesthetics their own
Some bands need no introduction, especially to the sizable roster of musicians they've influenced.
Such is the case with Wire. Just ask Sonic Youth, R.E.M., Steve Albini, My Bloody Valentine and HŸsker DŸ, among others.
The members of Wire have established themselves over a varied 25-year career as artists perpetually moving forward, motivated not by cash or fan worship, but by the need to create and explore the outer boundaries of sound. Nevertheless, Wire is invariably recognized first as a band that rose from a humble punk rock ghetto.
Guitarist-singer Colin Newman, 47, remains somewhat skeptical of that lineage.
'In the U.K., Wire has never been regarded as a punk band. As years roll by and memories falter, the roll call of '77 is played out in endless 'I was a punk before you were a punk' TV shows,' he insists. 'Wire has never been mentioned in one of those shows.'
Like many London lads of his time, Newman started getting ideas in his head after seeing the Sex Pistols effectively give a middle finger to the buttoned-down musical establishment.
'I saw the Pistols in '76 (several times) and realized that in about five minutes there were going to be about 100 punk bands,' Newman recalls. 'Most of which were not only rubbish but also lying about their 'punk credentials.' No problem for Wire Ñ we didn't have any.'
Between 1977 and 1979, Newman and bandmates Graham Lewis, Bruce Gilbert and Robert Gotobed released three albums that stand as influential classics: 'Pink Flag,' with its boiling, minimalist punk, 'Chairs Missing,' an angular pop masterpiece, and '154' swam in tense, abstract soundscapes.
The three records are remarkable in that they are distinct entities, extrapolating from a basic punk blueprint. Newman maintains that the group isn't interested in repeating itself stylistically. With every record, Wire applies its knowledge toward experimentation and the invention of new challenges.
'(People) may have realized by now that Wire is not really interested in some kind of spurious 'authenticity.' It's all about being part of one's culture and finding an interesting diversion,' Newman says of the band's ever-changing ways.
Wire broke up for six years in 1979, returning in the middle '80s with a series of records that mixed its growing fascination with dance music and electronic sounds. The group split up again in the early '90s.
After spending most of the previous decade occupied with solo projects and production assignments, Wire has re-formed and put out a new six-song EP. It is full of searing, white noise guitars blazing a repetitive trail atop simplistic beats. In some ways it's a return to the band's raging early days, and in others it's a completely new beast.
'I must make the point that the CD É is called 'Read & Burn 01' Ñ this small detail is very important,' Newman says. 'It is the first in a series and can be said to define a base point. It also conforms to an aesthetic which you can call third millennium punk rock or maybe car crash emo-core or even just super speed-metal with shouting. This is a current aesthetic, although no one does it quite like us.'