Never Heard of 'Em: Wire
Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.
What is going on with this guitar? Sometimes it sounds like a dial tone, sometimes it sounds Hawaiian/beachy, sometimes it sounds like a feedback telegram. This guitar also likes to do something sort of different from everyone else, like the guitar player is playing his own secret song and didn't tell anyone until they started recording, but then everyone loves it, so they just go along with it. Sometimes that sounds kind of wonderful. (Other times? Confusing.) I turn it up as loud as it goes, so it feels like they are playing inside my brain, because I want to be able to hear all the parts. Now I feel kind of dazed. I keep on thinking my phone is going off in my pocket, but it's just me vibrating, or thinking I'm vibrating, or my brain buzzing my whole spine. Yech, I feel kind of sick. It's affecting my vision! Okay, I'm turning it down.
I think you listen to this only with the blinds closed, or on a rainy day. No, actually, it's more like the soundtrack to a documentary about a moped gang. It's set in Seattle, in the modern day, but they light it and shoot it to look like an underground '80s film. The gang's not too large—maybe six people, plus a handful of stragglers, hangers-on, suck-ups. They run around screwing each other and fighting and living in a ratty apartment and smoking, and they go out and have deep conversations in all the best 24-hour diners and dive bars, and they rule at pinball. Yeah! They are excellent scowlers, but they know how to have a good time. They're not jerks; they're just tough. They have lots of feelings. They laugh a lot. They like to hang out in the rain.
Chairs Missing came out in 1978, the second album from these punky Brits Wire. According to Wikipedia, "creative differences" a few years later led them to create an album called Document and Eyewitness, "which was described as 'disjointed,' 'unrecognizable as rock music' and 'almost unlistenable'" by various critics. Wow! But here, they're just an almost-cohesive angst bomb ready to go off, a soundtrack that makes your modern human quest to ignore those inevitable pangs of paralyzing existential terror seem exciting, fun instead of scary—soaked in friendship and beer, an adventure instead of an escape. Wire is here for you. Run through a rainstorm holding hands, already!
I give it a "don't burst an eardrum, seriously" out of 10.