Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, 154
It is impossible to overstate the influence of the first three Wire albums. While the Ramones stripped rock music down to its essence, Wire took this even further, playing with the form and structure of songs, creating a blueprint for both American hardcore on Pink Flag and generations of arty, jangly bands on their second and third records. As groundbreaking as these albums are, they have also been reissued a few times already, so does the world need new remastered copies of them? In a word, yes.
The remastering job on all three albums results in a thicker, richer sound. While listeners aren’t going to hear things they haven’t heard before, the fuller sound is noticeable across the three albums.
But the extras make these reissues mandatory. Pink Flag has an extra disc of demos and single versions, 154 and Chairs Missing each have two. While for the most part the demos aren’t radically different from the finished songs, it is interesting to hear the evolution of the songs. And who doesn’t need a slow version of “Ex Lion Tamer”? Or a drum intro on “Pink Flag”, which lays out a blueprint for the coming hardcore movement?
Chairs Missing shows the band growing between the minimalist punk of Pink Flag and the more atmospheric work on 154. Jangly pop songs like “Outdoor Miner” coexist with the icy “Heartbeat” with extras including the Pink Flag sounding “Options R”, the radio version of “Outdoor Miner”, the experimental “Underwater Experiences” as well as a ton of demo versions.
The more stylistically varied (and coming only two years after their debut) 154 has a number of interesting extras, from the chilly, atmospheric “Go Ahead” to “2nd Length (Our Swimmer)” or “Catapult 30” which presage both the dancier material the band would release in the ’80s as well as the heavy, overpowering music of the ’00s.
New listeners will appreciate the remastered albums, but fans will marvel over the demos and extras, reveling in the growth and eclecticism the band displayed in just a three year period.