Spawned in London's punk maelstrom in 1976 and first disbanded in 1980, Wire spit out three radically different albums, and for many aficionados, those three releases comprise the essential Wire. Debating the triumvirate's comparative merits has long served as a High Fidelity
-style parlor game, and it's even been postulated that fans could be profiled by whether their favorite album is Pink Flag
(punk), Chairs Missing
(pop), or 154
(prog). Signed to EMI after debuting on that label's Live at the Roxy
LP in 1977, Wire released Pink Flag
, 21 succinct punk masterpieces that reduced classic rock to its essentials. 1978's Chairs Missing
offered an innovative collection of forward-looking punk-pop tunes some might call new wave, and by the 1979 release of 154
(allegedly the number of the band's live gigs up until that point), the progressive tendencies hinted at on Chairs Missing
had mushroomed into a lush, brooding panorama of post-punk experimentalism. From there on, the band has ebbed between multitudinous solo projects and periodic re-formations. Wire has been name-checked and covered by dozens of artists, from R.E.M. to the Flying Saucer Attack (usually credited, but sometimes not; Elastica reportedly paid an out-of-court settlement to Wire's publishers for the similarity of its song "Connection" to Pink Flag
's "Three Girl Rhumba").
In 1995, Colin Newman said: "The classic thing you do is to go back on tour and do all the old hits. That is so un-Wire like as to be not even a subject for discussion." Guess what? The four core members have opted to "perform selections from throughout the band's history" on their current tour. Such weasel-wording could mean anything, but a five-song CD taken from the tour's practice sessions includes one track from each of the infamous first three LPs, including two versions of "Pink Flag."