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WIRE - Album by Album

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by debased, Jan 17, 2018.

  1. Nikki Actionpacked

    Nikki Actionpacked Forum Resident

    Seattle Washington
    I listened to Chairs Missing tonight on the way to pick up some Indian take-out and one thing I noticed was the similarities between the ending songs on this and Pink Flag.

    For the first half of the song Too Late feels like a rewrite of 12XU--similar riff, pacing, vocal phrasing. Then Too Late explodes into noise and continues into nightmare land. It's a really cathartic ending to the song and the album.

    I wonder if this similarity (and the dissimilarity of the endings) was intentional.
  2. Devotional

    Devotional Forum Resident

    Oslo, Norway
    Enjoying this thread, and thought I'd post now, as I consider Chairs Missing their masterpiece and absolute peak. It is one of my favourite albums. The first time I heard it, I was literally shaking my head laughing in disbelief. It was just unbelievably good. There is not one bad track on the record. Not one. It might be the most consistent and solid album I've heard from the post-punk era. Favourite tracks (in no particular order): "French Film Blurred", "Marooned", "Sand In My Joints", "Mercy", "I Feel Mysterious Today", "Used To" and "Too Late".

    Pink Flag is also good, but very uneven, and especially the short songs are a mixed bag. Still, there are about 7 songs that I really like on that record, which is more than I can say about most albums. "Pink Flag" and "106 Beats" are just fantastic, for a start.

    Of the early 45s, Mannequin and Dot Dash are my least favourite (although the former has the great "1.2.X.U."), but I really love both tracks on Outdoor Miner, and the B-side of A Question Of Degree, "Former Airline" is amazing, and their greatest ever B-side imho.

    Incredible band, more than worthy of an album-by-album thread!
    SteveFff and bzfgt like this.
  3. Devotional

    Devotional Forum Resident

    Oslo, Norway
    Good point about Kafka! Come to think of it, I've never liked reading the lyrics while listening to Wire, as I find it a distraction somehow. I enjoy the lyrics to Chairs Missing a bit more more than the debut, probably because I find them even more integrated in the music, although they arguably don’t come across as "musical" just from reading them.
  4. Devotional

    Devotional Forum Resident

    Oslo, Norway
    Release Dates: Part I

    Don't want to bomb this thread (which is generally about the music) with autistic numbers, but since it is pretty hard to find correct release dates for Wire-releases, I'll share some of my findings/speculation here. Feel free to chime in, and please let me know if this is uninteresting/unnecessary stuff.

    Wire - Mannequin 7’’ (November 11, 1977)

    There is confusion about the release date here. Kevin Eden writes: "Harvest (EMI's subsidiary label) were keen to see its quick release and the album was on the streets by the end of November with Mannequin released as a single a few weeks earlier. Feeling Called Love and 12XU appeared on the b-side."

    The album was finished in mid to late October, so I suppose the single could have been released around the first Tubes-show, which was in Newcastle on the 6th of November, but the album certainly wasn’t out then. The booklet The New Singles #699 states that it was released on the 11th - which is a Friday, so we'll go with that. Note that Punk Diary: 1970-1979 says November 12, which is a Saturday. Hm.

    The first 10,000 came in picture sleeves, the rest in generic Harvest sleeves.

    Wire - Pink Flag (November 28, 1977)

    Some sources say "November", and others (including the band) say "December", but albums were mostly released on Mondays in the UK back then, and Tuesdays in the US. Punk Diary: 1970-1979 says November 28th, which is a Monday, and certainly plausible.

    Wire - I Am The Fly 7’’ (February 23, 1978)

    R&B (Read and Burn) just states "February", but The New Singles #712 states February 24th, which was a Friday, and is our best clue along with Punk Diary: 1970-1979 who says February 23rd, which was a Thursday. I've gone with the latter for now.

    Wire - Dot Dash 7’’ (June 23, 1978)

    The single reads June 23, 1978 on the sleeve - which happens to be a Friday, but The New Singles #728 states June 16th, which is a Thursday. R&B just states "June". Punk Diary: 1970-1979 does say June 23rd too, so I've gone with that for now.

    Wire - Chairs Missing (September 8, 1978)

    "Also in September it was announced that Chairs Missing would be released that month and Wire would undertake a month long UK tour starting on 29th September." writes Kevin. Peel played tracks from the album as early as late August, and NME had some quotes from the record on the 16th. R&B writes about the Peel session on September 20th that "Chairs Missing had only just been released", and Punk Diary: 1970-1979 says September 8th, so I’ll go with that.

    Wire - Outdoor Miner 7" (January 12, 1979)

    R&B writes that it was released "nearly four months after the album", which might point to sometime before January 18th. The New Singles #756 states January 12th (a Friday) so I've gone with that. Punk Diary: 1970-1979 says January 9th, though. Hm.

    Although Outdoor Miner appeared on the Chairs Missing album the single version was slightly longer through the inclusion of a middle-eight keyboard solo (it had initially been deemed too short for a single).

    The first 10,000 were on white vinyl in picture sleeve, with the rest on black vinyl in a Harvest company sleeve.

    Wire - A Question Of Degree 7" (June 1, 1979)

    A Question of Degree and Former Airline were released as a single, along with the announcement of a 13 date UK tour. The tour started on the 23rd, but The New Singles #776 states that it was released on June 1st, 1979. Other sources say June 8th, but I'll go with June 1st for the time being (it is a Friday). Punk Diary: 1970-1979 says June 2nd, but also "this weekend", and R&B simply states "June".
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2018
    SteveFff and crozcat like this.
  5. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    It was "Outdoor Miner", EMI got mixed up in some sort of chart fixing scandal.

    This album is almost perfect but "Heartbeat" is pretty dull - the band themselves seemed inexplicably taken with this track - and the appeal of "I Am the Fly" wears off fairly rapidly - listen to that guitar sound though! In fact, the sounds and textures on this album are amazing throughout, it's so well produced. One example, the opening guitar chord on "Being Sucked", how the hell did they produce that?

    Interesting that so many of the lyrics on side one have a vague nautical/maritime feel - which would have been greater still if they'd ever managed to record "Underwater Experiences" to their satisfaction. Also, so many tracks have such sparse drumming, not utilizing the whole kit.
    hamicle likes this.
  6. MGSeveral

    MGSeveral Forum Resident

    I compiled all the harvest singles onto one c90 back in the day (including 'Our Swimmer'), and it seemed clear that they belong together as such, rather than being added to albums as extras.
  7. Neonbeam

    Neonbeam All Art Was Once Contemporary

    Planet Earth
    This was actually my first Wire album, I knew Big Black's cover of "Heartbeat" and always loved the building tension. So after friends kept on raving about Wire's Harvest records this was the one I decided to check out first. Instantly loved it's cinematic production, the sonic colour the band created with apparently very little effort. It reminded me of early Magazine but while I always felt there was something cold and distant at Devoto's core, I found Wire remarkably easy to embrace. And got "Pink Flag" and "154" next but never went further until "Send" (aka "Read & Burn) was released many years later.

    A couple of weeks ago my girlfriend took a nap and I somehow decided to throw on "Chairs Missing". When the loud parts started I thought she'd kill me but she just kept on lying there. Zero visible reaction. So I flipped the record and also played Side Two. Again, zero reaction. Afterwards she opened her eyes, asked what I had just been playing and told me how much she loved it. Strange.
  8. Guy E

    Guy E Senior Member

    Antalya, Turkey
    Correct. The Retro label put the three non-LP 45 tracks on Chairs Missing because 154 had the 4-song experimental bonus EP as an appendix. A Question of Degree/Former Airline came out on 2 June 1979 --- 154 was released on 23 Sept 1979 and I assume that they were recorded concurrently. Map Ref. 41°N 93°W/Go Ahead was released in November of '79 and I believe that Go Ahead was recorded subsequent to the album in a session that also yielded the single, Our Swimmer/Midnight Bahnhof Cafe. But then they broke up and that single didn't see the light until 1981.

    These reissue decisions confuse history, especially for younger listeners who discover a band in retrospect. By way of an off-topic analogy: it's amazing how many people think that The Clash single Bankrobber was an "outtake" from London Calling because it originally appeared as the B-Side of a Dutch single release of Train In Vain. The song was intended as a standalone single and inaugurated their relationship with Mikey Dread; it was the beginning of the Sandinista! period. It was recorded long after London Calling and producer Guy Stevens was nowhere in sight.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2018
  9. gohill

    gohill Forum Resident

    Glasgow, UK
    I enjoy all of these albums, now and back when they were released when i first discovered Wire. The only one i don't like is Manscape which is Wire's only misstep in the whole catalogue. Some of it may sound a little dated and 80's sounding 30 years on, but there are some great songs on the Mute era albums. The First Letter is particularly overlooked. I did not have great hopes for that one after Manscape and Robert leaving but it is great. However we will come to these albums in time.
    captone and Guy E like this.
  10. Guy E

    Guy E Senior Member

    Antalya, Turkey
    Regarding Chairs Missing: I'm surprised that people are singling-out Heartbeat and other tracks that they dislike on the album. I Am The Fly had already been released on 45, but I thought that it was a nice change-of-pace.

    I like everything on and about Chairs Missing. The production sound is remarkable and as someone posted above, almost sui generis in its unique sonic quality.
    Neonbeam and gohill like this.
  11. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    Sand In My Joints has risen through the ranks to almost be my favourite track - I say almost because I don't have a favourite.
  12. gohill

    gohill Forum Resident

    Glasgow, UK
    'Chairs Missing' is one of my favourite albums of all time by any band. It is probably Wire's masterpiece (though 154 gets close) and one of the great albums of the post punk era. It stands alongside arguably more well known works like 'Metal Box' and 'Gang Of Four's 'Entertainment' as a perfect distillation of what can be achieved when all gates are open (to quote Can). The year zero liberation of punk rock opened the way for bands like Wire to be able to make records like this with major label backing, and they were able to use that to their advantage. Having made a bristling entry into the musical fray with Pink Flag, they were wise to use these new freedoms to forge and create their own identity, and set themselves apart from the herd still paying slavish devotion to the by now played out atavistic nihilistic reductiveness of punk's initial charged thrill. Wire, like PIL, Gang Of Four, Magazine and the other great band's of their generation knew the scorched earth policy of punk was a means to an end, not something to be recycled and rehashed until it was meaningless. They were unafraid to reach into the derided past, and happy to utilise the same atmosphere, sounds and textures that characterised label mates such as Pink Floyd's early to mid 70's works. Mike Thorne does a superb job on this album, allying the short claustrophobic itchy intensity of Wire's compositions to wider sonic soundscapes, deploying keyboards and spacey reverb to a lot of the tunes. It gives the listener the illusion of them playing these songs in a huge concrete tunnel or fall out shelter, evoking the chilly intensity of a cold dystopian 1970's Andrei Tarkovsky sci fi movie. I can hear that in the first couple of songs that set the sonic terrain of this album out so well. There is a brooding intensity right from the off. Wire's clipped disciplined new wave sound is immersed in a wider canvass giving it the same sort of icy shadowiness that Hannett brought to Joy Division on the following year's 'Unknown Pleasures'. Like that album, the actual songs are fairly simple in their construction, but the sounds around them make them seem more. 'Being Sucked In Again' is a perfect example of this. It starts with sinister echoey doomy guitar chords which to me evoke the start of Pink Floyd's 'Time' from DSOTM. There is a chilly claustrophobia there which soon gives way to the stop start push pull of the main structure of the tune. The atmospheric sound of Lewis's juddering bass as it thuds out the riff under the chorus line is majestic. It's a brilliant song, tense, terse, dark and involving. Most of this album is build on similar foundations. They still manage to avoid getting into a rut though with songs like Sand In My Joints showing that they could call on the spittle and spray of their punky roots if needed. The beautiful seeds of Newman's pop sensibilities that we saw beginning to bloom on Fragile from Pink Flag are developed further on the majestic classic 'Outdoor Miner'. One of the great pop singles of the time, it should be as well known as contemporary hits by XTC and The Jam or The Clash but it is still only known as a cult classic. I guess Wire's oblique lyrics and defiance against playing any kind of pop game would always set them apart from any real commercial success. In essence, Chairs Missing probably has a little of everything that makes Wire a great band, pop, punk, experimentalism, daring, intelligence, passion and guile.
  13. JohnS

    JohnS Senior Member

    London, UK
    Fun-packed Wire Trivia fact:
    'Former Airline', the B-side of 'A Question Of Degree', takes its name from the song's three-note riff of B-E-A.
    (BEA = British European Airways, which merged with BOAC in 1974 to form British Airways.)
  14. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    Also Colin Newman said it was a 'tired old riff', so they made a tape loop of it and built the song around that.
  15. Pavol Stromcek

    Pavol Stromcek Forum Resident

    SF Bay Area
    Total agreement on all points here. "Heartbeat" has always sounded trite and generic to me - just a silly bluesy riff played over and over again. I just don't have time for stuff like that when you've got utter brilliance like "Being Sucked in Again." And though I'm not overly fond of "I Am the Fly," the sounds on that track, especially the effects-heavy guitars, are wonderful.
  16. ciderglider

    ciderglider Forum Resident

    Robert Gotobed is a real less-is-more drummer. I saw Wire in the late 80s, and he was playing a drum kit that comprised (if memory serves) just 3 pieces,snare high-hat and bass drum.
    bzfgt likes this.
  17. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    Yes, I think he hated cymbals for a while there - maybe still does!
  18. Bren

    Bren Forum Resident

    When I saw them live a couple years ago, he used the ride cymbal for Mekon Headman and Brazil, plus whacked the floor tom for Sleepwalking. Nice little ventures away from the beloved hi-hat and snare. :) He was so good and it was a gut-punching thrill to hear him play in person. (Such a nice guy too, as were the others.)
  19. captone

    captone Forum Resident

    BC, Canada
    Snakedrill EP (mostly for "A Serious Of Snakes"), The Ideal Copy, A Bell Is A Cup and The First Letter are my favourite Wire releases after the 1st 3 lps.

    I saw them live in 1986 shortly after they reformed
  20. gohill

    gohill Forum Resident

    Glasgow, UK
    Are we going to be covering Colin Newman's early 80's solo albums as they are pretty essential? Gilbert/Lewis 3R4 deserves a look at too.
  21. Summer of Malcontent

    Summer of Malcontent Forum Resident

    If the threadrunner doesn't want to get too far astray, these could be discussed in the context of the abandoned fourth album, which could be discussed in the context of Document and Eyewitness.
  22. jneilnyc

    jneilnyc Free Range Responder

    New York
    Now that we're on to Chairs Missing, indulge me ...

    I met the Ex-Lion Tamers during the run-up to the first Wire reunion tour of the 80s, when Jim and I were both interviewing the band for different publications (based on this common interest - and others - we ended up forming a band of our own - see my avatar). The interviews also set in motion the events which led to the Ex-Lion Tamers touring with Wire, playing Pink Flag as the opening act each night, which Wire loved both as a concept (they had An Ideal Copy band) and because it freed them from some of the blowback they might have otherwise gotten for play essentially no old material on that tour.


    When Wire returned a year or so later E-LTs reformed and did a single performance of Chairs Missing in the same fashion, opening for Wire at Maxwell's in Hoboken. This brought me to one of those #OMGthiscan'treallybehappening moments as I got to do the live mix for their set, and as the band did their faithful recreation of one of our favorite albums I did my best to give it some of the same sonics as on the album, which you can hopefully glean from the not-entirely flattering cassette rips in the link above. Meanwhile, I'd occasionally look over to my shoulder, to where the four members of Wire stood watching, nodding, and occasionally grinning in recognition of some hook or other that they were hearing as observers for a change. Truly a peak evening for this bunch of fans, myself included.
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  23. zwolo

    zwolo Forum Resident

    The ending of Too Late is a frenzy of intensity one of the best most exciting moments in rock. Loving everyone's passion about Chairs Missing.
    strummer101 likes this.
  24. debased

    debased Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I don't mind if you, or anyone else, wants to comment on any of the solo releases. I trust you'll know when the time is right. :righton:
  25. StarDoG

    StarDoG Forum Resident

    There are times on "Chairs Missing" when I can't help thinking. This is what Syd Barret and the Velvet Underground would have sounded like had they made an album together.
    *Zod* likes this.

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