Dean Spunt is an artist and musician. He plays in No Age and runs the Post Present Medium record label. You can follow No Age on Twitter here.
Production is a term. Production is an idea. I think of production as a sound. It can be something that produces constantly, always in flux. This is the band Wire, this is the record Wire. It is both, lying together, beautifully simple, a band, a record, an idea that is singular.
Wire starts out with bass, guitar and hi-hat in an even race; it’s both democratic and snotty. Simple, hard-hitting rhythm play, done well. The opening song “Blogging” is lyrically witty, all search-engine terms and cache-phrases, fragments coupled with biblical references; you’re laughing and bobbing your head.
Does Colin Newman capture the melodies in his head? I imagine him walking around some city street while on tour, these tiny, bustling, fragmented melodies swarming around his head; they must be constant, enough to drive him mad. He uses a butterfly net to capture them, or maybe it’s more like one of those money machines from a Japanese game show where the money flies around you and you grab as much as you can, trying not to worry about what you’ve lost but what you have. You try your best but your hands can only hold so much, your head can only hold so much, but still the songs pour out. Those crumpled bills get shoved in a wallet-sized song filled with criss-crossing lines, tightly shoved into your best trousers that make up a record.
Somewhere deep below from where Wire started, where they’re going, they meet at an intersection. The car is on, radio blasting, inhaling fumes, the intersection becomes the destination. So many directions, I can’t imagine which way they are going to go, which direction they will be today. From the mid-tempo, Siouxsie-esque “Shifting”: “I didn’t see it coming, I was taken by surprise/There was something in the air but I failed to read the signs/I gave you one more chance….”
Here they are completely confident, almost straight, just like the name of the record, same as the band, Wire. One word holding multiple meanings. An idea taking its place in a space for us to complete. This is what they do so well: become the band that goes straight, just enough for a song. It perks your ears, you feel alive, then you slink back down a bit. Balance. Wire are funambulists.
Wire pulls this trick all over Wire, especially with the almost-paisley “Burning Bridges,” the punkier, quick-driven “Joust & Jostle” and the insanely beautifully straight “Swallow,” which must have been borne from that same unusual place where “Outdoor Miner” (1978) or “Kidney Bingos” (1988) were made. I can imagine this place: it’s lovely, there are cobblestone streets and power lines, it’s freshly green but with heavy traffic.
From the melodically creeping, built-up and broken-down “Sleep-Walking”: “We’re at a tipping point, the arguments may lead to less cohesion, a mere collection of parts….” It’s got perfect drums: tick-tock, click-clack. Slowly getting through it with a smile. “High” is shimmery and guitar-focused, but jump right into this track because it lasts only enough time to make it stick — 1:53 is all you need. This is brevity bathed in the right light, bright and mesmerizing.
Minimalism is very powerful. When you know what a line is, how to draw it, where it begins and where it ends, that line becomes a weight. It becomes a wire that cuts. Or it becomes a word when spoken directly, with an inflection that makes you quiver. Even a tone, a note, one chord. Precision. Opened up and releasing what is there, they are such smart, sharp, repetitive, simple lines, which make up a picture that at first seems sparse, until you understand a line. Then you can see how well Wire draws them.