Wire were formed in London in 1976 originally consisting of Colin Newman on guitar and vocals, bassist Graham Lewis, guitarist Bruce Gilbert and drummer Robert Gotobed. They were part of the original punk scene with their debut album Pink Flag being released in the crucial year of 1977, however their experimentation and approach to playing that went beyond that of the traditional realm of punk led them to becoming more associated with the post-punk movement.
Wire’s highly adventurous and thought-provoking music has led them to become regarded as one of the most seminal bands of post-punk and alternative rock. Whilst the may have started off as a fairly standard-sounding punk band, by the time of the second album Chairs Missing in 1978, they were already taking their sound much further in terms of experimentation and the scope of sounds they were making use of. This was taken further with their third album 154 in 1979.
After splitting up shortly after the third album, they reformed in 1985 before disbanding again in 1992. They reformed for the second time in 1999 and have been active ever since.
# 10 – 12xU
Starting off we have a song from Pink Flag which is an album that has been highly acclaimed throughout the years despite failing to chart upon its initial release. This is the record’s closing track and although it may be similar in terms of dynamics to The Ramones, it is clearly their own and instead it;s sounding very much like the progression of punk. It is obvious here that punk was merely a starting point for Wire, as they clearly had much bigger ideas.
# 9 – Short Elevated Period
Here we have a track from one of the band’s more recent outputs from 2017 titled Silver/Lead. The album was originally conceived to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of the band’s debut gig as the original recording line-up. This song was one of two that was released as a streamed single prior to the album’s release. The was described by one critic as “music that looks to the present and forward to the future” which is definitely the case, as Wire have never been ones for retro nostalgia.
# 8 – Strange
Here is a song from Pink Flag that sounds less like standard punk than much of the rest of the album, almost predating the sound of bands such as Pavement and Elastica. The albums longest track, it was covered by REM on their Document album and it sounded perfect for that band, as their early sound had a clear Wire influence at times.
# 7 – Drill
This track is taken from 1987’s The Ideal Copy which was the band’s first release after they got together after their hiatus which lasted from 1980-1985. When this record was released, it reached number eighty-seven in the UK albums chart. This time around, Wire were making much more use of electronic sounds, which this track is a prime example of, sounding rather like New Order, who they got a lot of comparisons to with this new sound.
# 6 – I am the Fly
The next song on this list is a track from Chairs Missing that is one of the band’s best-known songs. When the album was released in 1978 it reached number forty-eight on the Uk charts. Although the record does feature some of the same basic punk elements as Pink Flag , it is very much a progression from that album, almost bordering on progressive rock at times. In the years since its release, it has become a highly well-regarded album of the post punk genre.
# 5 – Practice Makes Perfect
This next track is also from Chairs Missing and its opening track. One might say that this the true beginning of Wire in the sense that it introduced the sound of the band that they are known for. With lyrics that were written by guitarist Bruce Gilbert, Colin Newman’s delivery of them are surrounded by the most unearthly instrumentation that had been heard in punk at that point. The birth of post punk? Quite possibly.
# 4 – Kidney Bingos
This is a song from Wire’s fifth album A Bell is Cup…Until it is Struck. With this album, they were going for a more melodic and mainstream style. The album even gained slight criticism from some who felt that the band should not have abandoned their earlier, more raw sound. Bass player Graham Lewis felt that the criticism was not warranted, stating that their earlier albums were noted for being more clean sounding than much of the other punk output of the time.
# 3 – Eardrum Buzz
Here is a track that is Wire’s most successful single, charting at number two on the Modern Rock Billboard Charts and at number sixty-eight in the UK. Despite being considered to be the band’s official sixth album, half of 1989’s Its Beginning to and Back Again consists of “reinterpretations” of live performances of material from the band’s previous album A Bell is Cup…Until it is Struck. They deconstructed the tracks in the studio and then remixed them.
# 2 – So and Slow it Grows
With this next track, we see the band enter the nineties with 1991’s The First Letter which was the last before their second hiatus. They released this record under the name “Wir” after drummer Robert Gotobed had left due to the fact that a lot of the music that the band were starting to create was making much use of drum machines. It is fair to say that this track has very little resemblance to punk or even rock for that matter, sounding almost completely like early nineties dance club music.
# 1 – Mr Marx’s Table
It may come as a surprise but at the top spot we have a track from the band’s 2003 comeback album Send, which was their first recording since 1991. The reason for its place at the top spot is because of the fact that it shows that Wire are a band who are certainly not about past glories but instead look very much into the future. Although it does bring back some elements of the early sound, it mixes all things that the bad have done throughout their career.