Which Version of Wire Will Show Up? | Phoenix New Times

Which Version of Wire Will Show Up at Crescent Ballroom?

The band has musically morphed many times over the years.
Wire Matias Corral
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Colin Newman was worried about the American proclivity for driving and talking on a cellular phone, so he made me pull over for our phone interview.

This speaks volumes about the 62-year-old singer/guitar player from Wire, one of the U.K.’s more interesting bands from the mid-1970s, whose debut record, Pink Flag, is among the very best post-punk records of all time. The guy actually cares about the safety of music journalists. That, dear reader, does not happen all the time.

What makes this guy tick?

We talked about the weather while I found a place to pull over.

“By the time we come to play in Phoenix, it’s going to warm?” Newman asks, clearly concerned about the heat.

I explained to Newman, who lives near Brighton Beach in the U.K., that you never know with March, but that it should still be pretty nice. He was clearly fascinated by the idea of spring training baseball, as well as the weather, but didn’t seem to think it was going to bring out the Wire fans.
“I would imagine all the baseball people won’t be interested in us. As far as I know, it’s the first time we ever played in Phoenix. It’s because, well, there was an original plan to do this one big tour of the U.S.A. all in one go, American-style, but it never happened,” Newman says.

Joined by Graham Lewis (bass, vocals), Robert Grey (drums), and Bruce Gilbert (guitar), Newman and his mates cranked out 10 studio albums together before Gilbert left in 2008, and then went on to crank out another six including 2017’s Silver/Lead (Pinkflag). Guitarist Matthew Simms fills in for Gilbert these days, and is a more-than-capable axe-handler. Simms has played on the last four Wire records, all of which have continued to push the boundaries the band continues to re-create.

The prolific output of Wire is matched only by the band’s ability to continually re-energize their sound, which is both a blessing and a curse to Wire fans who never really know which version of the band they are going to get when a new Wire record comes out. While there aren’t any Wire records that are out-and-out bad by any stretch of the imagination, they do change. The difference in just 11 years, for example, between 1977’s Pink Flag and 1988’s A Bell Is A Cup Until It is Struck is enough that it would be easy to convince a new listener that it was two completely different bands on each record.

While the shifts aren’t as drastic over the next 29 years to Silver/Lead, the band does continue to evolve. There are hints of early-’80s New Order, David Bowie, and past incarnations of Wire on the band’s latest record, which dropped in February. Neuman seems perplexed when I miserably try to describe Silver/Lead, but he is very nice about it.

“I think it is really hard for any artist who is genuine about what they do to categorize their music in such a way. I think, for example, anyone who said they were going for the 1967 Lower East Side sound, but only on Fridays, is not entirely genuine. For us, there’s no attempt to sound like anyone else. If anything, we sound like Wire, but we’re always trying to break our own rules. This record only has, really, only one up-tempo piece,” says Newman.

Wire fans will definitely appreciate several of the standout tracks on Silver/Lead which feature the typically brilliant lyrics they have come to expect. On the title track, “Silver/Lead,” Newman sings about the later years of a career, or perhaps even life.

“Erase the past and change the sheets/ turn the screws and pull the weak/ Abandon can’t afford to keep/ The punchers fight and words are cheap/ gathering clouds anoint the dead/ massive restraint/ silver lead,” sings Newman.

In addition to the title track, “Brio” and “Sonic Lens” are also definitely worth a listen. Newman does some of the recording in his home studio, and claims to be “quite anal” about his knob-twiddling in order to find a perfect mix, but the band also recorded in a couple of different sessions at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, in a small town in Wales which has a population of roughly 10,000. Newman said it is the perfect setting to record a Wire record because “there is not much else to do there.”

“We don’t know what to expect, to be quite honest when it comes to a Wire album. It’s an organic process,” says Newman.

Wire is scheduled to play Crescent Ballroom on Tuesday, March 28.

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