Wire (band)

From Academic Kids

Wire is a British punk/experimental rock band formed in 1976 by Graham Lewis (bass, vocals), Bruce Gilbert (guitar), Colin Newman (vocals, guitar) and Robert Gotobed (drums).

Their sound is often associated with a vague subgenre of punk called "art punk" or post punk, mostly due to their often obscure lyrical themes and somewhat situationist political stance. The group exhibited a steady development from an early raucous style (1977's Pink Flag) to a more complex, structured sound involving increased use of synthesizers (1978's Chairs Missing and 1979's 154). As a result, they had a tremendous influence through later decades on a variety of bands and rock music genres, notably in The Urinals, The Minutemen, and R.E.M., who covered "Strange" on their Document album.

During 1979, creative differences pulled the band in various directions, culminating in the provocative musical shambles that was Document & Eyewitness (along with a somewhat more successful set at Notre Dame Hall).

There followed a period of suspension (1980-1985) in favour of solo and non-Wire collaborative projects, including Dome, Cupol, Duet Emmo, and several Newman solo efforts. In 1985, the group reformed to renewed critical acclaim, but without carving quite the same niche as in the earlier decade. Reforming as a "beat combo", the group became increasingly immersed in electronics, causing Gotobed to famously make himself redundant in 1990 when he realised a drummer was suddenly surplus to requirements, even at the band's live gigs.

The remaining trio marked Gotobed's exit by renaming the group "Wir", and released one further album (The First Letter, 1991), which, although gaining a mixed reception, contained a sound that was ahead of its time. The odd collaborative effort punctuated a further period of solo recordings, during which Newman founded the Swim~ label with his wife, ex-Minimal Compact bass player Malka Spigel, but it wasn't until 1999 that Wire once again became a full-time entity.

With Gotobed (now Robert Grey) back in the line-up, the group initially reworked a substantial chunk of its back catalogue for a performance at Royal Festival Hall. Great receptions during a short tour of the USA and a number of UK gigs convinced the band to continue, and the band's sound was reborn once again, largely based around clockwork guitar hooks and very fast drum beats. Two EPs and an album (Send, 2003) followed, as well as live collaborations with Es Devlin and Jake and Dinos Chapman.

Their influence on the Britpop movement should also not be understated; a particularly celebrated plagiarism case between Wire's music publisher and Elastica over the similarity between Wire's 1977 song "Three Girl Rhumba" and Elastica's 1995 hit "Connection" resulted in an out-of-court settlement. Blur's work, along with many more minor Britpop bands, has been particularly redolent of 1970s Wire at various points. Like The Velvet Underground, Wire are a band whose influence has outshone their (comparatively modest) record sales by some distance.

Sound sample

"Dot Dash", a 1978 single. (30 seconds, 519 Kb)

Discography

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