Wire had the same musical impact in the late 70s as the Velvet Underground did in the late 60s. At the end of both decades, musical revolution was in the air but these two bands, despite being more revolutionary than their contemporaries, slipped under the radar. But to coin an old saying, everyone who did listen to them formed a band.
Both bands stripped rock of the blues/rock ‘n’ roll templates the 60s rockers and 70s punks still followed, creating fresh new sounds that sounded years ahead of their time.
Wire, for instance, stood out from their slogan chanting, spiky haired counterparts. For one thing, they were older, middle class and from art school. On their first album, Pink Flag (which came out in 1977 along with the Sex Pistols and the Clash), the instruments sound raw and minimal with most of the songs clocking in under two minutes. It’s like a proto-hardcore record, with a few catchy art pop songs thrown in.
Their second artier album, Chairs Missing (released 1978), still blisters the ear but sounds more developed. It’s as if the band had blown all their steam on the first album, leaving room to experiment. To my ear, the second batch doesn’t stand out as much as Pink Flag. However, they’re still cracking songs.
Some rock, like ‘Mercy’. Some amuse, like ‘I feel mysterious today’. Some even haunt you, like the softly atmospheric ‘Heartbeat’.
Raw and challenging, Wire’s original brand of art-punk still sounds sharp and inventive today.