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"On The Box"  Wire  Release date: 2004  Label: Pink Flag Archive Research

Wire are perfect. It's in the expert, minimal efficiency of every chord, riff, beat and bassline; it's in the perfectly balanced vocal sneer, that never falls onto the wrong side of caricature, yet never betrays so much as a glimpse of any emotion besides ironic pissed-offness; it's in the spine-juddering electricity that runs through all their songs; it's in the casual incomprehensibility of their lyrics; and finally, it's in the way that a perverse unwillingness to make even the slightest concession to commerciality is, through the sheer artistic brilliance of the work, rendered fascinating, accessible, and downright fun.

This live album and DVD, recorded for German TV show "Rockpalast" in 1979, inbetween "Chairs Missing" and "154", is a fractious rollercoaster ride divided more or less equally between new and slightly less new material. And no famous songs. In fact, the only song to have stayed the course from debut album "Pink Flag" is the title track, present here as a bruised and battered encore. Please compare and contrast with their 2004 Club Quattro gig where almost the whole of "Pink Flag" was present in one form or another. Reasons? Wire don't give reasons, they give you whatever the hell they like and you say thank you or you fuck off, they don't care either way.

In a live context, shorn of producer Mike Thorne's keyboard embellishments, the songs are even more intense, even more electric, even more wired (yeah, and I'm the first writer ever to use that gag) than on record, which suits the "154" material especially well. Also, the ear-splitting noisy stuff like "Former Airline" is ten times more exciting, especially when you can actually see Colin Newman spazzing about onstage as he and bassist Graham Lewis scream incoherently and arhythmically over each other. In fact, the only moment where the live recording falls down is on the poppy "Map Ref. 41 Degrees North 93 Degrees West" where the studio polish is necessary to bring out the subtleties of the song's arrangement.

For fans of the band, this release is essential; for people who heard the albums but didn't really get it, the DVD could help a lot of things fit into place; if you just want to see and hear the coolest, sharpest, most intelligent pop music in the world performed by a young band at their creative peak then this is the only place to start. Get now. -Ian Martin, Nov.28.04.

Wire [On The Box] 2004 On The Box

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