Wire album review, 1987

This review got accused of being homophobic. I still say it was at most synthophobic (bad enough) if not discophobic, and I still don’t have any use for any Wire records after 154. But that doesn’t necessarily excuse my tossing so many unrelated (and apparently often gay-identified, not that I knew at the time) bands into the same basket. I dunno — If I ever had a “rockist period,” I suppose mid-1987 must have been it. Whether I’m at all responsible of Al Jourgensen’s rockist period is worth pondering, but if I wimp-shamed the guy, I’m sorry: Forget industrial metal inspired by Big Black (also namechecked), Ministry had already peaked with their Adrian Sherwood album Twitch in ’86.

4 comments

  1. via facebook:

    Doug Brod
    Age of Chance mention! Loved their two albums, especially the first.

    Chuck Eddy
    Indie purist (!?) that I was, I wound up liking their EP and debut LP okay, but not nearly as much as the beatnik noisemaking that preceded those. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQrRyC0MAmk

    Doug Brod
    Chuck Eddy That’s cool. Never heard it before. I’m partial to their bike messenger-chic days.

    Sundar Subramanian
    I support the right to mock synthpop.

    Chuck Eddy
    I support the right to mock any kind of music ever, but to be honest I like way more synthpop now than I did when I was 26 years old.

    Jaz Jacobi
    Several questions:
    1] Is “Jean-Luc Goddard” an honest typo, or an Adam Ant in-joke?
    2] Do you still like that 1987 Bryan Adams album that everyone forgets exists?
    3] Is this the only time you mentioned the Undertones [one of my top ten bands ever, as people who insist I have no taste will remind you]?

    Chuck Eddy
    1) Honest. 2) Probably not. 3) Probably not, but almost.

    Chuck Eddy
    Pretty sure “Teenage Kicks” was in that Top 40 of ’70s and ’80s bubblegum piece I did for Creem in the mid ’80s, then later got reprinted in the Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth book, whatever year that was?

    Jaz Jacobi
    That was the very first thing I ever read by you!

    Jaz Jacobi
    I remember telling some girl who bullied me in junior high school, but now wore Skinny Puppy shirts in high school and was “goth,” that you had called the Jesus and Mary Chain “bubblegum” in that CREEM article, and her simply replying, “shut up.”

    Jaz Jacobi
    As a longtime card-carrying “alternative rock” maven, over time I’ve come to realize that quite a bit of “postpunk”/college radio music is really just as “art rock,” and frequently more dreary, than the ELP and Yes and Rush figureheads that supposedly make punk “necessary”–Fugazi, Guided By Voices, Archers of Loaf, Mission of Burma etc. But sometimes, this realization has taught me, indie art rock can be giggly fun when it’s no-big-deal/small potatoes/low stakes college town nightclub goofing [I still enjoy no-name dollar-bin fodder like Polvo and the Swirlies more than might seem wise, perhaps in part because such bands don’t have huge devoted fanbases jumping down my throat every time I’m caught “trolling” the Pixies by implying they’re kind of trivial or minor]. This Wire piece sums up some of the reasons this sub-subcategory of music really CAN be grand and complex and fascinating, though [bits of the Wire/PiL/Gang of Four/Pere Ubu catalogues, more of the Fall catalog than seems statistically likely].

    Jaz Jacobi
    “This review got accused of being homophobic. I still say it was at most synthophobic (bad enough) if not discophobic, and I still don’t have any use for any Wire records after 154. But that doesn’t necessarily excuse my tossing so many unrelated (and apparently often gay-identified, not that I knew at the time) bands into the same basket.”
    It wasn’t until years later that I was aware that at least 3 of my 6 or 7 favorite bands from when I was in my early twenties had gay singer-songwriters, and I became a tad self-conscious when I recently found myself tossing large parts of the catalogues of a couple of those artists into my get-rid-of pile–like, might it seem valid if someone confronted me about whether their non-gender-specific love songs used to seem meaningful in a different way within the presumptions of my younger, less informed self? But then I realized that A] I knew the rumors before I knew the facts about their orientations the whole time anyway and this didn’t make any difference to my manic fandom back then, and B] I’m only willing to part ways with this music now because my older self finds it isn’t always consistently very GOOD, which is a whole ‘nuther factor!

    Sara Quell
    I love this. Sort of how mid-80s Rush would’ve sounded had the Fall been the North American Led Zep instead of the Police https://youtu.be/2GbhMxw4Hlo

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  2. via facebook:

    Steve Alter
    As Stefon on SNL would say, “This review has EVERYTHING” that I love about Chuck Eddy reviews. Did you ever review that Yes album? 🙂

    Sara Quell
    Bought ‘Ideal Copy’ because “Ambitious” was playing in the store and it sounded like something it would be cool to tell people I bought. Still like the first two tracks, haven’t played remainder since I got it and never intend to play it again https://youtu.be/Faze7pIthuM

    Peter Stenhouse
    I still love those Sly & Robbie and Prince and Royal Crescent Mob albums, if they’re the ones I’m thinking of.

    Chuck Eddy
    Author
    I’m almost positive I haven’t heard a note of Royal Crescent Mob music since the ’80s.

    David Allen Jones
    Chuck Eddy Saw the RC Mob in.. 1991? I forget the year. Touring the album they thought would break them, Midnight Rose’s. Pretty good show, I thought but they just couldn’t get over the hump career wise… if that Sly and Robbie album is Rhythm Killers, that’s a longtime favorite of mine, darn near perfect in my book.

    Chuck Eddy
    Author
    Yeah, that’d be the one, for sure.

    Peter Gorman
    1985-1990: The A List is a very fine “best of” for the post-154 Wire. All the songs chosen by fans.

    William Boyd
    It might be nice if you can transcribe some of your stuff; it’s too difficult to read on my screen.

    Chuck Eddy
    Author
    I have transcribed some, and scanned some. Seems to work on plenty of screens, if not all. Sorry I don’t have time to transcribe all of them.

    Zac Harmon
    badge icon
    Sigue Sigue Sputnik were gay identified?!

    Chuck Eddy
    Author
    No idea. But I’d assume, at very least, Erasure and Frankie Goes to Hollywood were.

    Sara Quell
    The weirdest thing I discovered about England was how all the fan-identifying stereotypes were switched around. Carcass/Napalm Death fans were gentle, scholarly Gandalf types, Frankie/Erasureheads were yobs and hooligans (Depeche Mode = jail time. Spandau/Culture Club = get out, Bond villain alert). Sigue Sigue Sputnik was for “dumb American (yeah that was part of the insult) rock fans’ like me (nickname remained ‘Bon Jovi’ years after total hair loss), and predictably enough ‘Flaunt It’ is my favorite 80s

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  3. I’ve always wanted to ask you since I read this in the Voice back in the day – but when you ended with that JL Godard dis, had you ever seen a Godard movie? Because your descriptions of PINK FLAG and CHAIRS MISSING (excellent, excellent, excellent by the way!) could easily describe the same spirit/feel to any of the first 8 or 9 of his films.

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    1. That’s a great question, Stanley, and honestly? I have no idea. I do know I’m probably way more likely to have watched something by Godard *before* writing that Wire review (like, in my early 20s in the early ’80s say) than at any time since. Oddly though, this morning (before I read your note) I happened to read Greil Marcus’s blurb about Chairs Missing in his discography appendix in the back of Stranded — I’d inadvertently left Chairs Missing off my 150 Best Albums of 1978 post, but included Pink Flag, which in the UK was a ’77 album, and I was trying to remember what Uncle Greil had written about the then-import-only former. Here’s his last sentence: “This band, which hid melodies in almost impenetrable lyrics about dislocation, pleasure, and doom, probably owed more to Jean-Luc Godard’s New Wave than to that of anyone else.” So, 34 years on, I’ll take a wild guess that my ending sentence was a thinly veiled reference, tribute and/or rejoinder to his — whether I was personally familiar with Godard’s films or not. To what extent Marcus inspired anything else in the review is another great question.

      Also can’t hurt that the second song on Chairs Missing — which I’m listening to right now, first time in ages — is called “French Film Blurred.”

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