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Wire: Document & Eyewitness

Album Review

The post-punk experimentalists’ notoriously abrasive live album.

Few live albums capture a band so eager to displease as this 1981 document of two London Wire shows from 1979 and 1980.

The band evidently felt they’d already moved on from the spiky shards of angular punk-pop found on their first three albums. So after tossing off a truncated version of their big punk hit 12XU (intercut here with the band’s droll commentary – “I don’t need to go to the arctic to know it’s cold.”), they played almost entirely unreleased tracks, full of metallic clangs and anti-rock discord. The crowd’s reaction becomes even more understandable when you read about the visuals accompanying these performances: “Woman enters pulling 2 tethered men and an inflatable jet”, anyone? “Vocalist accompanied and lit by illuminated goose”? Hmmm. This reissue adds 10 rehearsals and a couple of demos to the package, which are at least a bit less willfully obtuse. Go Ahead sounds like the kind of drone of which early incarnations of The Fall would have been proud. But the sound quality is so atrocious they’re little more palatable than anything else on here. All told then, this makes for an interesting historical document, but a stubbornly unforgiving listen.

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