Wire - Chairs Missing
Wire as a band were perhaps gifted with a greater degree of foresight than some of their punk contemporaries in the same way that seemed to have been gifted with a greater degree of talent than many. It looks now as if they could see that, ultimately, punk would lead to a musical dead end and that its true importance lay in shaking up the rather sterile and flaccid music industry of the mid seventies.
As a consequence, Chairs Missing was completely misunderstood at its time and derided as too avant-garde by a music press which felt that Wire should continue to be a snot-nosed punk outfit. The imagery of their songs, sometimes eerie, almost always thought-provoking, was completely overlooked by a music press which was more concerned with songs about dole queues and hatred for the establishment.
Right from the start, what set Wire apart was their use of keyboards. You might be able to get away as a guitarist with knowing only three chords, but to play keyboards you had to have some reasonable level of musical competency. Among the punks, only the Boomtown Rats, the Stranglers and XTC managed to utilise keyboards to the same extent that Wire did. On Chairs Missing, Mike Thorne's clever keyboard arrangements were what set the band apart, and what provided this album with its distinctive persona. Listening to "Another the Letter", whatever guitar thrash you expected from a track which clocks in at little more than a minute long is quickly dispelled by a constant keyboard hook where guitars appear only rarely, and then unobtrusively quiet.
The album has a trichotomy of distinctive styles to the tracks. There are the punk-inspired fast-paced tracks such as "Too Late" and "Sand in My Joints". Then there are the melodic tracks which display the band at their best in terms of their musical competence, such as "Heartbeat" and the excellent "Outdoor Miner", of which there are two versions on this extended CD. Finally, there are the discordant and jarring tracks such as "Practice Makes Perfect" and "I Am the Fly". It would be the combination of the two latter styles which would prove to be the hallmark of the earliest incarnations of post-punks.
If anything, it is this which proves the album's undoing. There is a lack of coherence about it. This may have been Wire's own favourite album as well as being their boldest release, but many of the tracks were ahead of their time. It would be left to others to pick up the torch they had lit. There are bands still carrying that torch today.
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