Dream Time Destruction
Wire live at the Albert


Prince Albert, Brighton - 12th April 2015
One of my most embarrassing moments occurred in 1990, when I was working on the Jonathan Ross Show on Channel 4. I booked the musical acts, who’d perform cover versions with the resident houseband, the Steve Nieve Quartet. This particular week, Lloyd Cole was one of the turns, and it was a delight when he turned up for rehearsals accompanied by legendary New York guitarist Robert Quine, the most important of Richard Hell’s Voidoids. They rattled through a storming interpretation of Elvis’s 'Little Sister', with Quine in fine fettle, all touch, shape and space.

Come showtime, the performance was peerless. Midway through, I mentioned to Jonathan that Quine looked a bit like Sergeant Bilko. After the audience’s applause, he said, "‘I forget your name but you look a bit like Phil Silvers on guitar over there." It’s on Youtube. And so, let’s not say that Colin Newman of Wire resembles the balding one that wasn’t Rowland Rivron, from Raw Sex. Not that he’d actually be bothered, one imagines. Always contrary, Wire’s first words on vinyl were "Pay attention. We’re Wire" on the 1977 punk compilation Roxy London WC2. You do have to pay attention to find them and the many offshoots and side projects they’ve been involved with over the past 38 years. If this was Amazon, at the bottom of the page it would say ‘People who bought this also bought ….. The Fall and The Pop Group’, testimony to that triumvirate’s founding of, and subsequent creative ploughing of, the post-punk furrow.

Reviewers of the new album, Wire, have remarked that if this was the debut by a new combo, rather than the 14th studio offering, then it would be heralded from the rooftops, with online petitions calling for a national holiday to be instituted. It may not be quite that good, but it’s certainly a triumph, ever so Wire, full of motorik drumming, guitars somewhere between drone and psychedelic pop, and minimalist lyrics sung wistfully. Wire the album speaks of ‘dream time destruction’ via the ubiquity of virtual reality, and ends with the lines "I’m worried, I’m worried, I’m frightened as hell, walls closing in, I’m feeling unwell." If movies can now be carbon-dated by the characters’ use of technology, then album and show opener 'Blogging' is slightly last month, with its references to eBay et al, but the point is made, and the theme of dehumanization, that post-punk staple, is set.

You can’t help but smile at the inclusion tonight of 'Blessed State' from 1979’s 154 album, with its ironic "Oh what a pearl, what a well made world." Maybe it’s not simply ironic, though. As the walls indeed appear to be closing in at this over-full ‘intimate secret gig’, Newman’s guitar, the mint-green Stingray construction that he’s played for years, is indeed a thing of beauty, both in in looks and sound. The trademark Wire chord progressions, giving just enough of the sinister to the harmonic, chime lustrously. Graham Lewis, looking like the ageing art school tutor that he probably is, travels the length of his bass fretboard, and Robert Grey, no longer Robert Gotobed, and the spit of Viz’s Paul Whicker the tall vicar, keeps his upper arms pinned to his sides and plays the tightest, most metronomic beats imaginable, as though he’s still on a mission to prove he’s better than the drum machine the band deployed during his absence a couple of decades back.

As ever, they play none of the ‘hits’, no 'I Am The Fly', 'Outdoor Miner', 'Eardrum Buzz', '1-2-X U'. There is, though, 'Brazi'l from ‘77’s Pink Flag, 'Used To' from Chair’s Missing, and a couple from 2013’s Change Becomes Us longplayer, the title of which says so much. All of Wire is played, some of it as though it’s still at rehearsal stage, and new-ish guitarist Matt Sims, despite looking as though he’s still a touch surprised to be part of the band, adds spit and filigree that’s just the ticket, just the counterpoint to Newman’s pop-ness.

So The Fall, The Pop Group and Wire, late 50s and early 60s all, find themselves as active as ever. Is it something to do with the times in which we’re living, this upsurge of demand? On the new album’s 'Sleepwalking', Newman sings, "We’re at a tipping point, the narrowest vision often has the widest appeal." On that score, Wire and their other unglamorous contemporaries will never have a wide appeal, but they’ll most certainly be worth paying attention to.

Words: Andy Darling

Wire at the Albert, Brighton
Colin Newman of Wire
Colin Newman
Photos by Guy Christie
Latest Reviews
Review of the Year 2014
The Jesus & Mary Chain live at The Troxy
PINS live at The Hope
The Who live at the Albert Hall
Facebook Link
Isolation Home