on life, music etc beyond mainstream



In the years 1979, 1980, 1981 there have been released a lot of great records, and some all-time-classics. CHAIRS MISSING is one of them, 154 another. The more I listened to them, the more it sank in. The sheer diversity of CHAIRS MISSING is immense. Whereas their debut album PINK FLAG is a perfect expressionist punk album, CHAIRS MISSING is a perfect ‚album‘.

The guitarwork is exceptional, which can’t be said for many punk albums (even the classics), and the vocals are sensational, which varies from aggression fueled climaxes, and even some wonderful singing in the ballady pop songs, on one the greatest short single of all time, „Outdoor Miner“, then the catchiest hook I have ever heard in „I Am the Fly“, the epic sprawling masterpiece „Mercy“, the darkly eeriness of „Practice Makes Perfect“, the mysteriously sinister „Heartbeat“ (the way it builds … just WOW), the all-out in-your-face punk of „Sand In My Joints“, or the sublime sudden guitar licks of „Marooned“. Fucking genius. Next step.

Late 1978 saw the band shift again, the effect of touring and travel excerting an influence over the material – which came in various origins – Lewis writing on his own, Gilbert writing on his own, Newman writing on his own…The band seem at odds with each other at odds with the world – so it was unsurprising they would disintegrate following the ‚Document + Eyewitness‘ performance. ‚154‘ was the conclusion of their best years. Strange enough, it tok decades to come close to the old class with „Red Barking Tree“. Interesting stuff in between, butbnot really of this high calibre … And Mike Thorne was a genius producer.



‚154‘ are without doubt as great as some other stuff of those years like ‚Unknown Pleasures‘, ‚Metal Box‘, ‚Cut‘, ‚Secondhand Daylight‘, ‚Entertainment!‘, ‚Fear of Music‘, ‚My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts‘, ‚London Calling‘ or ‚Dub Housing‘.

Lewis‘ opener ‚I Should Have Known Better‘ is a different kind of angular pop, a building melancholy reflected in the manic-guitars towards its climax. & it even uses the word ‚albeit‘! There are kind of pop songs here – ‚The 15th‘ still sounds terminally sublime, while ‚Map Ref 41 N 93 W‘ (title!) is essentially catchy – jukebox music in the best and timeless sense. Sadly it never became a hit.

There’s an abiding melancholy here – B.C. Gilbert’s ‚Blessed State‘ an anti-National Anthem that always sounds pertinent with its refrain „oh what a perfect, what a well-made world.“ ‚Two People in a Room‘ shows the angry punk thing wasn’t completely erased – while ‚A Mutal Friend‘ explores more oblique territories. ‚The Other Window‘ is perhaps – haha – the missing link between Eno and hip-hop, opening as an ambient-guitar dirge with vocals from Gilbert, oblique chatter that becomes something else when an electro-beat kicks in!

Newman’s  „On Returning“ is poppier, slight-pop not far from Talking Heads and some of the material found on his solo LP ‚A/Z‘. Some more? Closer „40 Versions“ is Gilbert’s guitar-dominated ode to entropic options (‚total eclipse and Niagra falls‘!) – the guitar itself is unspeakable and would even raise a happy smile on the face of Mr. Fripp. Lyrically it feels somewhat sci-fi, reflected in the artwork the albums Wire released on Harvest and the feel of ‚154.‘

The epic „A Touching Display“ is pure under-the-skin-stuff. Sorry for my lack of analytical description here. On ‚Mercy‘, Lewis‘ offers something that lyrically recalls (predicts to be accurate) music that sounds like Young Marble Giants playing Siouxsie & the Banshees. I love the way the vocals become more passionate, and then nothing – nothing – nothing. Suddenly words are no longer required anymore and the band drifts off into drones and avant-nirvanas.

This entry was posted on Dienstag, 15. Dezember 2015 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Martina Weber:

    I did not know 154. I should have known better. Touching sad songtext.

  2. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Along with 8 Robert Wyatt classics, 12 Brian Eno classics, 3 Talking Heads classics, and some other classics, these 2 Wire albums are two of the most classic classics of the later days of the 20th century. Said with unsurpassable restraint.

  3. Lorenz:

    154. Eine sehr schoene Erinnerung an 1979 fuer mich! Der aeltere Bruder meines besten Freundes machte uns beide immer wieder mit – ja – „music beyond mainstream“ bekannt. Auch mit Wire´s 154. Fast genauso aussergewoehnlich wie die Musik fand ich damals auch, dass der LP noch eine 7″ EP beigelegt war wie bei „songs in the key of life“.

  4. Michael Engelbrecht:

    There are always records you just miss in their days. In this year i made my first start to end listening of STICKY FINGERS and TUSK – both have (with the exception pf the single WHAT and about twelve to fifteenn (??) great Stones songs) never been my bands. ThevKinks, the Beatles were my soul food. So I was quite astonished and delighted with my first real encounters with these works.

    But, in the case of WIRE, i was there from hour 0. Ad an over- romantic hippie (once upin a tine:))) I was never into punk, except for some of punk’s attitudes, moments, and its political left-wing, And the only real punk album (nearly too abstrac t be called punk anyway) I really loved was PIKK FLAG. From Wire.

    And the follow-ups, CHAIRS MISSING and 154, drifted away from punk’s rather narrow aesthetics and were kind of epiphanies for me. keep rezurning to these albums, they never ring the nostalgic bell. In the beginning I thought that the name of their producerr, Mike Thorne, was an alias for Brian Eno, that damned fuckin great they were.

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