Chairs Missing – Wire (1978)

Chairs Missing marks a partial retreat from Pink Flag‘s austere, bare-bones minimalism, although it still takes concentrated listening to dig out some of the melodies. Producer Mike Thorne‘s synth adds a Brian Eno-esque layer of atmospherics, and Wire itself seems more concerned with the sonic textures it can coax from its instruments; the tempos are slower, the arrangements employ more detail and sound effects, and the band allows itself to stretch out on a few songs. The results are a bit variable — ‘Mercy,’ in particular, meanders for too long — but compelling much more often than not. The album’s clear high point is the statement of purpose ‘I Am the Fly,’ which employs an emphasis-shifting melody and guitar sounds that actually evoke the sound of the title insect. But that’s not all by any means — ‘Outdoor Miner’ and ‘Used To’ have a gentle lilt, while ‘Sand in My Joints’ is a brief anthem worthy of Pink Flag, and the four-minute ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ is the best result of the album’s incorporation of odd electronic flavors. In general, the lyrics are darker than those on Pink Flag, even morbid at times; images of cold, drowning, pain, and suicide haunt the record, and the title itself is a reference to mental instability. The arty darkness of Chairs Missing, combined with the often icy-sounding synth/guitar arrangements, helps make the record a crucial landmark in the evolution of punk into post-punk and goth, as well as a testament to Wire‘s rapid development and inventiveness.”
allmusic (Audio)
Everyone Stopped In Their Tracks – Wire’s “Chairs Missing”
W – Chairs Missing
YouTube: Chairs Missing 42:36


Wire – The Peel Sessions (1989)

“In 1978 and 1979, Wire taped three sessions for the John Peel show. Most artists might have taken the opportunity afforded by a coveted Peel session to promote a recent or forthcoming release. Wire did otherwise. Wire often moved swiftly on to new projects once material had been committed to vinyl. Consequently, only one of the numbers chosen by the group for its first BBC session in January 1978 was from the recent debut album, Pink Flag. Even that track (‘106 Beats That’) was treated to a compressed rendition. Nevertheless, the session arrangements of ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ and ‘I Am the Fly’ closely resemble the versions that would be released eight months later on Chairs Missing. Wire returned to the BBC studios in September 1978, having spent most of the year touring and giving fans ample opportunity to acquaint themselves with the material released that month on Chairs Missing. True to form, the second session comprised new tracks that would appear on 154, almost a year later. However, a couple of the versions differ from their eventual album incarnations, emphasizing that the object of Wire‘s art was the work in progress, not the finished product. ‘The Other Window,’ for instance, would be a vaguely menacing exercise in dramatic tension on 154; here, it’s a sprightly pop song. When the third Radio 1 session aired in late 1979, 154 was enjoying critical acclaim. Rather than showcase the album, Wire chose to perform Crazy About Love,’ a quarter-hour improvisational oddity spawned in rehearsals. Although The Peel Sessions hints at early Wire‘s weaknesses without regular producer Mike Thorne — who seemed uniquely capable of bringing the group’s sound into focus — the material collected here does nothing to diminish Wire‘s status as the most innovative and influential band of the punk era.”
allmusic (Audio)
W – The Peel Sessions Album
YouTube: Wire Peel Session 17:40

Wire – Pink Flag (1977)

“Though born of the punk moment, ethos and conviction, the debut of Wire on Pink Flag—conceived, executed and produced as a full work, rather than conforming to the era’s focus on DIY sound or singles simply strung together—has as much to do with punk as cheese does with giraffes. From its fast-and-furious, stripped-to-the-bone approach to its fleetingly short, often fragmented songcraft (21 tracks in less than 36 minutes); from its intentional dissonance without eschewing melody or big production values to its precision-driven stops and starts and the detached, acerbic wit of its abstractionist lyrics, Pink Flag sounded like nothing else of its time, in its time and—dare we say—in this time, 40 years later. ‘It was deliberate, we were deliberate—even though we hadn’t done this before,’ says guitarist/vocalist Colin Newman of Pink Flag’s sonic assault and modern primitivism. The album happened so quickly after the quartet’s formation that you can’t help but guess that such haste added to the persistent aggression—an artful minimalism with no display of, or interest in, rock ’n’ roll. The sense of urgency and experimentation that informed Wire’s 1977 debut would also figure into the band’s evolution. …”
MAGNET Classics: The Making Of Wire’s “Pink Flag”
W – Pink Flag
Wire’s Pink Flag
YouTube: Pink Flag (full album)
YouTube: Pink Flag 21 videos

Wire – Mannequin / Feeling Called Love / 12XU (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. …”
Steve Hoffman
YouTube: Mannequin, Feeling Called Love, 12XU