[dropcap]Post [/dropcap]Punk is nearly 40 years old as of 2016. This underground movement from the late seventies to the early 80s returned to glory when bands like Interpol openly embraced their roots and created a bleak sound cocktail that started off the Post-Punk Revival movement that brought us bands like Editors, The Horrors or even The Killers, who recently got knighted by New Order (where they get their namesake) with Singer Brandon Flowers being invited to join Bernard Sumner on vocals for Music Complete‘s closing track Superheated. Widely ignored at first, bands like Young Marble Giants, The Chameleons or Durutti Column – named by Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante as one his major influences for his guitar works, were dug up by a new generation of musicians who embraced the sound that was created usually before they were even born.
One influence that is frequently mentioned above all is Wire, one of the key players of the early Post-Punk underground, a band that created much of the sound of New Order before New Order were New Order. Hell, Wire even have their own “Drill” Festival, with bands like Swans, and Savages on the bill.
Given their prolific influence, we at Post-Punk.com are particularly honored to be presenting Wire’s Berlin Gig on November 22nd (2 days after your humble Editors birthday) at the Postbahnhof club. This gig is in support of the band’s 13th studio album, the self titled “Wire”.
Now a bit of history…
Originally connected to the Punk scene that went off in 1976/77, Wire were formed when the first punk bands started releasing records—during October 1976 by singer and guitarist Colin Newman, Graham Lewis on bass and vocals, Bruce Gilbert on Guitars and Richard Gotobed on Drums. Being Post Punk before Post Punk, Wire distanced themselves from conventional rock structures that were, weirdly enough, still dominating Punk, a movement that wanted to put Rock as it was known at the time…to an end, a step that they analogued to the unsung heroes Subway Sect. Wire’s debut Pink Flag was sparse and minimalistic, and eventually enriching their minimalistic artsy Punk brew with Synthesizers, Step Sequencers and Drum Machines on their 2nd album Chairs Missing and turning to New Wave before it was a coherant thing with their 3rd album 154, Wire proved themselves to be the ideal copy for many bands, especially on 4AD’s roster.
Despite the band releasing numerous albums par exellance after their pioneering early albums, which their Mute era like The Ideal Copy, A Bell Is A Cup or The Snakedrill EP, they never achieved considerable commercial success, despite the overall critique of Wire’s releases was genuinely positive; they went on hiatus with very few activities as Wire from 1991 to 1999, after the departure of drummer Richard Gotobed, before they returned with a new album called Send in 2003; since then, they released numerous high-quality albums, like Red Barked Tree, Change Becomes Us or recently their fantastic self-titled 14th album Wire.
DAF‘s Robert Görl remembers the influence they had on the German EBM pioneers: Meeting the band when they played at Ratinger Hof in Düsseldorf in the late 70s, DAF moved to London and took up major influences of Wire to create their minimalistic sequencer driven sounds that pioneered EBM – and this is just one example how Wire’s influence can be found in many, many bands, at least indirectly. Just ask your favorite Post-Punk band. For sure, Wire were – and still are – one of the most influential underground bands that ever existed, coming close to Post Punk and Indie demigods Joy Division or The Smiths, and a considerable number of Wire covers are floating around. So let’s take a quick tour through Wire’s discography and play some really cool tunes with our top five list of Wire songs that does not even remotely claim to be universal, and because we’re fighting here at the office, in no particular order.
One track we agreed that it has to be included on this list is Map Ref 41°N 93°W, featured on the band’s 3rd album 154, released in 1979. Referring to a place called Centerville, Iowa, the track’s lyrics deal with an omnipresent geometry that is present everywhere; musically, the track paved the way for bands like My Bloody Valentine, who even made a cover of that song.
Praised as one of the most original albums released in the first wave of Punk, Wire’s debut album Pink Flag was was a rough assault on the ears of your average spiked hair punk kid celebrating the straightforward pogo compatible tracks of The Ramones or The Damned. The roughness and the off kilter song structures of Pink Flag were unheard in that context before Wire, and Pink Flag was Post Punk before Post Punk was a thing – hugely important, for sure, and the pogo stomper 1 2 X U shows why!
Another track off 154, and to prove The 15th‘s importance and sheer quality can easily be displayed by enumerating some artists that covered that track: Fischerspooner, Little Nemo, Ladytron, Beck, and Jay Reatard’s Angry Angles. On another note, the album cover of 154 is amazing and seemingly made minimalist abstract art album covers fashionable, from New Order to The Soft Moon.
The Snakedrill EP is one of Wire’s later efforts, being released in 1986, and the quasi title track Drill is a minimalistic track giving away hints of the synth based music they co-influenced (just ask DAF). Bleak to the max, Wire’s early 90s effort might not sound contemporary, somewhat being rooted in the 80s, but I imagine that a Techno rework of that track would have an amazing result.
Many things that were done by New Order could be said to have been done by Wire first, and contemporary critics called Wire’s The Ideal Copy the ideal template for many Synth-plus-Guitar bands were following in the late 80s/early 90s (Madchester anyone?). Emphasizing Synthesizers and Drum Machines even more than on their previous album, The Ideal Copy is comparatively easy listening, compared to previous efforts; but nevertheless a great one.
Singer Colin Newman created a fantastic album called A-Z in 1980, and the best known track off that record is Alone – for a very specific reason called “The Silence of the Lambs“. The connection of the amazing adaption of Thomas Harris’ epynomous novel and Post Punk and Wave is not exactly new, and another hugely important Post Punk band, The Fall, was featured on the same soundtrack, and recently, Siouxsie Sioux contributed a song for the series finale of Hannibal. Also…I do believe that only very oblivious people don’t know about the infamous scene in which Buffalo Bill dances to Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus… That has successfully been covered by the Canadian Synth Wave act Psyche. Oh yeah, in addition to the Colin Newman track “Not Me”, “Alone” was covered by the 4AD esemble project “This Mortal Coil” as well.