Release Date: Feb 14, 2012
Record label: Pink Flag
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Thirty-five years into their start-and-stop career, Wire are not short on live albums. This is the 15th they've released since 2004 through their own Pinkflag imprint, covering all three incarnations of the band: the brittle, brainy punks who hurtled artward from 1976 to 1980, the poppy, brainy "beat-combo" that branched out toward both alternative radio tunes and monomaniacal hammer-drone from 1985 to 1992, and the tough, brainy old guys who reconvened in 2000 and have been bearing down hard ever since. But the only really significant live Wire discs are the out-of-print Document and Eyewitness-- a bootleg-quality set centered on an abrasive 1980 gig that featured almost entirely new material-- and 1989's It's Beginning to and Back Again, which was so heavily reworked in the studio that it's barely a live album at all.
The Black Session was recorded approximately 34 years after Pink Flag debuted, but original members Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, and Robert Grey (joined by touring guitarist Matthew Simms) are still a tightly wound unit, and oddly enough, this is a much better indication of their prowess on-stage than mid-career outings like Document and Eyewitness and It's Beginning to and Back Again. Taken from a 2011 performance for the French radio show C'est Lenoir at Maison de Radio, this recording concentrates on pop-oriented material, mainly from 2010's Red Barked Tree. Otherwise, there are three late-'80s numbers (from Ideal Copy and A Bell Is a Cup…Until It Is Struck), and three late-'70s landmarks (from 154 and Pink Flag).
After the applauded release of Wire’s 12th album, Red Barked Tree, the English post-punk legends embarked on an expansive tour, the most extravagant of their 35-year career. They visited a number of uncharted cities, then they went ahead and played England twice, which seems to come but every three decades. The touring made them a tight band, and it’s apparent here; they have no problem adhering to the rigid structures of much of their music.
A neat manifesto update for those who’ve not been paying full attention. Alex Deller 2012 You have to hand it to them: for a band born of the brashness and youthful vigour of 77 punk, Wire had no real right to release an album as fresh and sparkling as last year’s Red Barked Tree. With the plaudits still ringing like tinnitus in their ears, the legendary experimental / post-punk/indie / art rock / whateveryouwannacallthem act launched into a cranny-poking tour that begat this typically forward-focused set for Radio France.
The third wave of Wire's career has turned out to be a remarkably productive one. Rather than becoming simply a greatest hits reunion tour, they've actually made some of the best music in their long, influential career. Not only that, but they've become even more formidable onstage, as this live recording in Paris last year shows. The focus is very much on their most recent album, Red Barked Tree, and that brings with it some of the more sedate moments live, such as opener "Adept." That said, they're still more than capable of cranking up the guitars and making the kind of caustic, spiky noise that's been their trademark for more than 30 years, especially live.
It was a dirge in the dark; an unsung millisecond in the blackened punk cellar of Covent Garden's The Roxy Club in 1977. It was a normal night, and would have faded in an instant if not sparsely captured on the raw and evocative Live at The Roxy album that attempted to emulate similar live screams at New York's CBGB's and Max's Kansas City. But punk London just had to be caught on vinyl somehow, not through the vision of some West End producer assigned to turning a howl of angst into a lucrative groove.