by Erick Pressman
Wire are one of the most influential rock bands of all time. There really isn’t any other way to put it. When the list of bands who have name-checked you as a major influence include The Minutemen, REM, The Cure, Manic Street Preachers, Minor Threat, Henry Rollins, Guided By Voices, Blur, Bloc Party, My Bloody Valentine, and Big Black, it is obvious that your band created some next level art every bit as important as some of their more infamous peers such as the Sex Pistols or The Clash.
In fact, Wire was so influential, that in 1995, the band sued one of the 1990’s most beloved one-hit wonders, Elastica, for plagiarism over their one hit “Connection” being the exact same riff of Wire’s “Three Girl Rhumba” (the suit was eventually settled out of court in Wire’s favor). If being praised by so many different heavy hitters of rock music wasn’t enough gratification for Wire members Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, Robert Grey, and Bruce Gilbert, taking a sizable chunk of money from Elastica was probably icing on top of a cake that most musicians only dream of getting to enjoy.
If Wire’s sound had to be summed up via comparison to some of their more recognizable peers, it would be pretty spot-on to say they combined the filth and fury of the Sex Pistols or The Damned with the minimalism, brooding, and intellect of Joy Division. Their 1977 debut record Pink Flag, arguably their most important release, managed to turn punk on its head in terms of innovation and creativity, which is astounding to ponder considering that in 1977, punk itself was challenging music, music industry, and the societies worldwide with its innovation and creativity both as a style of music and a lifestyle. Perhaps the most “punk” thing anyone involved in punk can do is challenge the standards and practices of the genre, and you’d be hard pressed to find another band that had taken an extreme to the extreme earlier than they did.
The following years found the band putting out records not quite as well received as Pink Flag or Chairs Missing, and upon returning from one of their many haituses, the band actually hired a Wire cover band called Ex-Lion Tamers to open for them on a tour to play their older material so the band could exclusively showcase newer material. It would more than likely infuriate fans if bands pulled that move on a more regular basis, but in Wire’s case it shows both their influence in the fact that they found a cover band to open the tour and their dedication to keeping themselves maturing and fresh, even it wasn’t always well received by critics or fans.
The problem with being a band that impacts music so hard is that often times, the bar you set is hard to reach with each release, but that hasn’t kept Wire from putting out new music over the last decade. In January the band released Red Barked Tree, which is a bit less aggressive than their earlier material, but shows them returning to form more than in their other releases spanning the last decade.
Hearing “12XU” live is definitely on our musical bucket list, and if it isn’t on yours, we’d consider some serious list revisions. Regardless of your musical-witnessing life goals, Wire are a force to be reckoned with, and Sunday’s show at Slim’s is not one to let pass you by.