Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday 80s Flashback for May 30, 2014

[Down to the Wire] -- Wire formed in late 1976 and immediately took up the flag as part of the new vanguard for British punk. And I mean that almost literally: Their first studio album, released in 1977, was titled Pink Flag. After Wire released three seminal punk records,  Colin Newman (vocals, guitar), Graham Lewis (bass, vocals), Bruce Gilbert (guitar), and Robert Gotobed (drums) ceased working together as a band for a few years. Between 1981 and 1985, they each pursued solo, decidedly non-Wire ventures. They reformed in 1985 and expanded their palette to include more electronic musical instrumentation while refusing to play any of their old material. This was something of a brand new Wire, a Wire II if you like (though they didn't actually change their name). This week, we are focusing on Wire's three studio albums released between 1985 and 1989, the ones on which they more fully embraced sequencers, synthesizers, and drum machines: The Ideal Copy (1987), A Bell Is a Cup ... Until It Is Struck (1988), and It's Beginning To And Back Again (1989). You can read and hear more about these releases after the break.

Flashback #1"Someone is taking you  |  Someone has taken me  |  TV doesn't understand  |  A word that matters."

After a five year hiatus, Wire came back together in 1985 and began work on their fourth studio album. They released The Ideal Copy in April 1987 and it peaked at #87 on the UK charts. Critics slammed the band for sounding so much like New Order due to their more electronic sound. But, hey, who doesn't like New Order? And, to be fair, many 80s bands, including New Order, took a few cues from 70s-era Wire. (Note: Please don't send me nastygrams about how much you dislike New Order ... or about how much you disapprove of comparing Wire to New Order). Anyway, this bleak but lovely song really conveys the feeling of being cheated and lied to, whether by a corrupted system or an intimate partner.     

Flashback #2"Gold street spy fleet scandal food poor treat."

Wire's 1988 offering, A Bell Is a Cup ... Until It Is Struck, was their fifth studio LP. Incidentally, the album cover artwork inspired Wil Wheaton to don a horse head mask. (No, it didn't). But that is the kind of stream of consciousness thinking that listening to this album can inspire. It's an album full of perfectly crafted pop songs, albeit songs with rather peculiar stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Take our second Flashback of the day, "Kidney Bingos." For one thing, it is very fun to say "Kidney Bingos." And this song's chorus goes, "Money spine, paper lung, kidney bingos, organ fun." What does that mean? I don't know, but I'll be singing it for most of the weekend. The song's layered guitar, atmospheric synthesizers, and hypnotic beats will make it all the easier for me to do so.

Flashback #3"Custard Jack has lost his Mac  |  Captain Flash won't give it back."

Wire's sixth studio LP was It's Beginning To And Back Again (1989). It was also known as IBTABA, which is fun to say (though not nearly as much fun as "Kidney Bingos"). According to Wikipedia, IBTABA is primarily "reinterpretations of live performances of material from the band's previous record" (see the previous Flashback). Well, "reinterpretations" is a bit misleading. The songs were completely stripped down -- sometimes to a single musical element like a bass line or a drum beat -- and then built back up into new compositions. Speaking of new compositions, there were also a few new cuts, like our final Flashback of the day, "Eardrum Buzz." The video seems tailor made for the MTV generation, but it never caught on. Maybe the album itself was at fault. As it was neither a true live album nor a remix collection, fans and critics alike had a hard time cataloging it. Still, it's a fun album to rediscover, and "Eardrum Buzz" is a likable earworm.

Once again, I remind you that the rule of three applies when doing Flashbacks. As I've made my three offerings, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the archives. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

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I'll see you in seven!

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