Very few bands enjoy the status afforded to Wire. The British post-punk outfit are credited as formative influencers by a raft of talent including R.E.M, Blur and Bloc Party. The constant citations mystify Colin Newman, the band’s primary vocalist and songwriter. “It’s quite strange when you’re the most famous band no-one’s ever heard of. People are forever claiming us an influence, but I doubt most of them have ever heard any of our music.”
Between 1977 and 1979 Wire released three albums that are widely credited as the finest examples of angular, unorthodox and original punk to emerge from Britain. Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154 exploded out of the blocks with a minimalist ferocity unmatched by an army of imitators in the years since. More than 30 years later the four piece have released their 10th record, Change Becomes Us. Critics have rushed to hail it as the kind of sparse and savage affair that should have opened their account in 1980.
“We’re very happy with this record, particularly as we didn’t really go into the process with much of a plan,” bassist and vocalist Graham Lewis says. “We did a second tour of the UK in 2011, and it was necessary for us to have some new material, so we started looking at what we already had. It was really quite satisfying because we were able to pick and choose from material from 1979 and 1980 that had just been abandoned. Over the years we’ve been aware of its presence, and we’ve dipped in and used some of it occasionally, but now we’ve integrated all the parts and have got the group feeling confident and strong with the songs.
“We’ve been able to take that strength and power and intuitiveness and let loose,” he continues. “We’ve been able to let it transcend its beginnings – it feels very fresh and alive, and once we started we really hunted down what we needed.”
The band has recently finished performing the album in full at its own inaugural mini festival in London entitled Wire – Drill. The venture was a co-production with online magazine The Quietus, and featured a swag of young London creatives like Comanechi, Land Observations and highly anticipated Australian visitors Toy.
“Having the festival enables us to have much more overt contact with younger bands,” Newman says. “Panda (Toy’s bassist Maxim Barron) was telling me after their set how much he likes Githead (Newman’s side-project with his wife Malka Spigel). That thought doesn’t come from nowhere, and it won’t go nowhere now. Interfacing on that level, and the possibilities that come from that contact, are only possible because of the directness that comes from being at a festival.”
The direct contact with admirers occasionally presents the band with unexpected pleasures. “Years ago we were playing in Austin and Interpol were playing the day after us. I think it was 2002 and they were still a very young band, and they came up to us afterwards. We had this really interesting moment where they told us how much they loved one of our first EPs. That was incredibly surprising,” Newman says.
Lewis attributes the impressiveness of the album to the experience of touring the material prior to recording. “We had the opportunity to check if it was up to muster, or whether things needed to change,” he says. “After that first period of touring we knew we had to complete the album. There just seemed to be an inevitability about it, which is the best test of a piece of work.”
BY BENJAMIN COOPER
Change Becomes Us out now on Popfrenzy.