Wire
Wed Sep 11
Crystal Ballroom

"We did the 'museum piece' last time," insists Colin Newman. "This ain't about the past."

It would seemingly be easy for the Wire frontman and his bandmates to coast into the rock 'n' roll sunset based on their previous accomplishments. After all, it's been 25 years since their brilliant debut, Pink Flag--the first of many innovative albums that established the quartet as arguably the most forward thinking of Brit-punk's founding fathers. But re-blazing the group's musical trail is simply not an option anymore.

"We're a really bad band to be into if you go to a gig with your checklist," says Newman, who emphasizes that their current set list contains only new material. "The truth is that Wire, in a pinch, could only ever manage to limp through about 10 percent of their back catalogue, and only 50 percent of that with any conviction."

Fortunately, they don't have to. Read & Burn 01, their corrosive new EP (and the first installment in a series of upcoming releases), reveals Wire to be hungry and fiercely relevant--hardly resembling a band of complacent elder statesmen.

The band's heretofore heralded, tension-filled dynamics are ratcheted up to especially malevolent levels on the new offering. It's as if just prior to the opening salvo, all of the gnashing guitar riffs, low-end propulsions and grooves, and rigid beats are stretched to the snapping point, grasping tightly to each other before being unleashed in a crushing, hypnotic, and exhilarating assault.

While Read & Burn 01 hints at an amazing and productive future, the band's impact on music history simply can't be ignored. It's not a stretch to say that Wire directly influenced many of the most celebrated pioneers of a multitude of genres over the past 25 years: the somber post-punk of Joy Division, the alienated goth of The Cure, the angular hardcore of Minor Threat, the experimental indie-rock of Sonic Youth, and the underground eclecticism of R.E.M., just to name a select few.

"Their song off of 154 about the horse getting caught on a wire fence as seen from a train ["The Other Window"] provided, in the early '80s, something to aspire to lyrically," R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe told me. "And the mood of the music is chilling and beautiful, like a memory."

Newman concurs, "We do seem to have inspired a lot of different artists. Some of whom you feel good about and some, well, we'll pass on that!"

Despite their musical/historical importance, Newman and his compatriots--guitarist Bruce Gilbert, bassist Graham Lewis, and drummer Robert Grey (aka Robert Gotobed)--have taken two lengthy hiatuses. The time off occurred not because of any major intra-band turmoil, but rather by each member's overriding interest in innumerable solo endeavors, which have collectively included ambient electronic projects, performance art, production work, independent record labels, ballet scores, and organic farming.

But now they're onto the next phase of Wire, with 2000's obligatory reunion/retrospective tour--the "museum piece" Newman alluded to earlier--out of the way. The new music is proof that the band's unique chemistry is perfectly intact, in defiance to all the time spent apart.

"These Read & Burns are intended to show a developing aesthetic," says Newman. "02 is a bit further along the road--in some ways more intense, in some ways less. More colors but no pastels as yet!"