Saturday, March 21, 2009

Style Iconoclasts: Wire


Clearly I'm a huge Wire fan (I christened this blog after one of their songs and make lots of references to their music). I grew up in the suburbs of Northern California and listened to lots of first/second wave punk and adored almost anything on the Dischord label. As an 11-year old, I somehow stumbled upon an obscure band with an amazing album titled Pink Flag. My life would never be the same.

Perhaps it is that they not only embody the punk rock thesis of minimalism and DIY, but they were art school proteges who captured the intellectualism, fashion and captured music's relationship to the art world (like sound matter that could be shaped, textured and manipulated).

As an art student in 1976, founding member Colin Newmen use to sit in the back seat while Brian Eno & Peter Schmidt (artist and lecturer at Newmen's Watford Art College) drove him around and discussed art and music. Colin tells Simon Reynolds in his book "Rip It Up and Start Again" that "As soon as I stepped in that car I was no longer just a rather poor student but a friend and an equal, an artist sitting in a car with other artists. I could babble on about my ideas."


With Newmen as lead, drummer Robert Gotobed, bassist Graham Lewis (a fashion student) and guitarist/painter Bruce Gilbert, Wire crafted punk music into something that was beyond its working class/three chord beginnings, sculpting rich songs and soundscapes with stunning visual imagery (like in Map Ref. 41° N 93° W) and lush honey-sweet harmonies (like in Outdoor Miner).


Like any founders of what would be called post-punk, the arty and scrawny boys of Wire were also well styled and kept their look polished, tailored and minimal (in juxtaposition to the chaotic looks of punk rockers before them). They preferred clothes in gray, black, and sleek white, keeping with softer shades that avoided the punk cliches (as art students, visual presentation on stage and on camera was just as important). I think boys (and girls) should take notes. All white is possible when done right!


One of the reasons why I fell hard for M was that he too had a love for Wire (this was long before they got back together and started touring again/re-releasing old albums). We didn't know anyone who loved Wire so much and I think it was a permanent link between us. We taught ourselves how to sing and play Outdoor Miner and play it out at the end of a set often. For us, djing it is like a statement of love and devotion, to each other, to the band we love, to the people listening and to every lyric that burns in our hearts.


From Pink Flag

Ex-Lion Tamer


From 154

The 15th

images are by the legendary Eugene Merinov and Annette Green during 1977 and 1978. Some of my favorite punk, post-punk photographers ever.

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