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    Maybe I'm just old-fashioned but for me, a good recording sounds like a faithful and well mixed version of what the group actually sound like.

    I have been a devotee of Wire live recordings for many years because they always sound good live. I think it is on record that Colin said that Wire have a heavier (or somesuch) sound live in comparison to their releases.

    I was a bit disappointed by Object 47. Not the songs but what was done to them in the production process. Just listen to the released version compared to the recent BBC radio session variants and which do people prefer?

    In particular, Perspex Icon has been neutered IMHO on Object 47.

    I raised this topic with Colin at one of the UK shows a few months back and was told that an album release needs to be a 'piece', that can be returned to again and again. It appears that post-production brings this to the basic sound.

    Personally, in Wire's case, I think it smooths and polishes the sound, it removes angularity and reality from the sound and in some instances distorts it from good to less good.

    I have been listening to QOTSA a lot recently. They seem well known for supposedly retro production techniques. Well it works for me eg see 'No one knows'. Doesn't that sound 'real' like music should or has it just been post-produced differently or not at all?

    In production terms, I always go back to the first 3 Mike Thorne produced Wire albums as examples of how to produce Wire sympathetically?

    Any views?

    Different strokes for different folks!

    I love clean, clear, precise production of any artist/genre I listen to. & quite a few albums I’ve bought over the years have disappointed me – incl Send (my least fave Wire lp), which perhaps has the qualities you crave? And I think the production on O47 is spot on!

    Conversely to you, & with hindsight, I think the 1st 2 Wire lp’s are poorly produced (154’s great) & could do with a remastering! Whereas Ideal Copy, A Bell & Manscape have, for me, wonderful precise production & are my most often played Wire lp’s because of it!

    A good live lp will capture the excitement of the gig & relies upon the facilities with the venue as much as the band themselves – I always quote Neil Young’s Weld as a simply brilliant live lp!

    You say tomato, I say tomato! Er, don’t come across in print realty does it!?!?!?
    I'm pretty much with you, Uri. I love O47 a lot, but I'm not 100% sure about the production. There's been a few occasions that I've listened to it and the production has disappointed slightly (an old Wire fan from my school days emailed me expressing the same sentiment), but I must admit that when I turn it up it becomes less of an issue.

    It's not a case of wanting a more esoteric sound a la 154 or anything like that (for me at least), because it depends on the contesnts. Send's production is straight to the point but that suits the material. So...I'm not sure if it's the mastering or the production, but there's something about O47's sound that isn't *quite* right.
    My main fear is that 047 is going to end up sounding dated in a few years kind of like the 80's material does now.

    Aesthetically, I think it really works on a song like "Perspex Icon" but it doesn't really work on tracks like "Hard Currency" and "Are You Ready?" which to me sound like they were made in the early 90's.

    Send/R&B 1&2 for me is a completely different story. I hate the production across the board. I understand what they are trying to do, but to me it doesn't sound like a band playing together... especially with the drums. Compare the live and studio versions for songs like "First Fast", "Spent" and "Comet". For me it's no contest.... the live versions totally trump the studio recordings.

    In the future I would hope that Wire would strive for more of the sound of a band playing together in the room. I hope that they will tailor the production to the song rather than the other way around, because the last two albums strike me as songs built around a core conceptual sonic idea.
    "songs built around a core conceptual sonic idea."

    That's what Wire have been about since day one!
    WIRE recording at Joshua Tree sounds good.
    "songs built around a core conceptual sonic idea."

    That's what Wire have been about since day one!


    I wholeheartedly disagree. You think "Chairs Missing" and "154" are built around a core sonic idea? Those are two very sonically varied albums in my opinion... especially 154.
    This came up back in the old 80s Wire thread, but I'd just like to mention again:

    Production = decisions about how it comes together, how the parts/instruments are organized, two verses before the chorus or one? etc.

    Engineering = decisions about how each part is recorded; how it actually sounds.

    These are general definitions, mind you, and not mutually exclusive. However, when someone says "this was produced poorly, the guitar sounds like it was recorded with the amp in a cardboard box." Well, the issue isn't production. It's engineering. Not trying to be a smartypants here, just wanted to make sure we're all on the same page.

    That said, it sounds like what people really want are more live albums? Perhaps a Depeche Mode pattern where they release an album, then go out and play it live and record it? (except it won't sound exactly the same except with clapping, like those DM live albums?)

    I don't know, I was always impressed with Graham's comment in ELAH about the recording of Manscape: people would stand outside the studio door and nag them about not playing a set. Their response was: this isn't about playing a set, it's about constructing material, and this is how Wire works at this point.

    The notion that the recording process robs a band of the energy that a live show can represent has long been discussed, but I never really thought that was the point with Wire. I always saw their playing and recording as two separate enterprises. The many variations of some of the Mute era singles and the subsequent work through IBTABA demonstrates that even the recording end was a fluid process that grew and changed over time.

    That, to me, is pretty cool.

    I think it's been a strong thread in Wire all along. There is much in their catalog - and certainly the solo/side projects - that could not have existed as it does now without a willingness to embrace the studio as an instrument and not just a very elaborate tape recorder for them to go and play a set in front of. I find it to be important to their process, and I thank goodness they gave me Send and not just Metro.

    But, I have enjoyed all the open ended (yet not) questions that show up when these kind of topics come up: "Well, just listen to the two! The difference is clear!"

    garage band put it best. Different strokes. The difference is clear to me too, and: I still don't agree that the Daytrotter Mekon was any better than the album version. But that's just me, and I don't think making definitive, qualitative statements about good/bad better/worse are really merited in this case. Probably more applicable to bands that don't give a damn about the studio and see it as a roadblock to getting out and playing a set.

    To answer the original question, no. I don't think Object 47 suffers from being over-produced. But maybe that's my definition of it muddling things: when people say overproduced I think of that big, fat 80s Donald/David Was and Nile Rodgers and B-52 Cosmic Thing Level 42 super-gloss Belinda Carlisle type of thing. Or most "grunge" records.

    Probably a very limited definition, admittedly.
    I should perhaps add that I'm nitpicking above. O47 is still one of my top 5 of the year.
    • CommentAuthorcc says...
    • (CommentTimeJan 16th 2009 edited)
    interesting topic... but I have a few assorted "issues":

    can one really speak of a trend in Wire's tendencies, that they've at some point "become" overproduced? They seem too erratic, in terms of both frequency and kind of output, to make a call like that. I mean, to compare Object 47 to the first 3 albums and say, "hmm, a bit overproduced," as if it weren't 30 years ago that those albums came out, seems strange. Comparing it to even the Read and Burn releases seems a stretch, to me. Those records aren't all that recent, either, and the band's personnel has changed. We might even speak of "the Read and Burn era" and consider Object 47 part of something entirely new.

    "I raised this topic with Colin at one of the UK shows a few months back and was told that an album release ... "
    er, you were told this by Colin, or by someone else, like his customer service representative?... the way you write it, uri, it's hard to tell. I've noticed that Wire and their fans have a strong preference for the passive voice! (or should I say, "among(st?) Wire and their fans, the passive voice is preferred...")

    all that said, I agree with uri's original post in that I'm not crazy about Object 47. But your complaint is on the basis that Wire should sound like a rock band. But in the studio, is that how they think of themselves? If not, then producing the record to sound as if they were one would involve just as much "production," in the sense of (aural) illusion, as what we have with Object 47. Graham's quote that they are "constructing material" (ok, he can be that pompous... he's in Wire--but their fans can't!!) suggests that they have a different approach, and so to pretend they're a rock band in the studio might be disingenuous. Now, it would also be disingenuous for them to pretend they're not a rock band when they play live, which is a different thing, but probably why you like the live recordings more.

    now, I don't really like Object 47's production, but I'm not sure that "producing" (or is that "constructing"?) the songs less would have helped. I just find several of the songs flat, even to some extent in live performance. "Perspex Icon" would be one of those. The early or mid 90s style of mixing rock with dance music--or is it specifically mixing rock with early or mid 90s dance music--is still a worthwhile project, but this is not its finest hour. Or 30-odd minutes.

    7jlong, I don't buy how you distinguish production from engineering. It may have been truer of the classic age of pop recordings. But I think Wire has always been doing it themselves along with whoever was producing/engineering, such that any decision about how to record an instrument is already a production decision, keeping in mind how the sound of the instrument should contribute the overall mix. One can simply fuck it up and call that an engineering flaw, but it's the same bag. There are very few "producers" anymore in the sense of someone hovering around the control room thinking of ideas and arrangements without twiddling any knobs or playing any instruments. I know you're talking about functions that don't need to be assigned to one person, but the distinction doesn't really hold as I see it.

    with Wire, I doubt that the songs are even written before recording starts. They are about sonic ideas (steve, there's a difference between entire albums being built on ONE sonic idea and songs being built on sonic ideaS which I think is what garage band means). They even described their process as "jamming" in the late 80s, I believe, before "constructing material" became the euphemism!
    uri: "a good (studio, i assume) recording sounds like a faithful and well mixed version of what the group actually sound like. "

    actually i couldn't disagree more. if the "live" sound of the band was exactly the same as the studio recording, there would be no need to spend time and money making a album. just release the live version instead. studio versions of songs are generally
    the "best" versions of what a band chooses to release at a given point in time. the 'sonic idea' is whatever the group decides
    upon, again at any given time. i happen to love the fact that musicians/bands like lou reed, animal collective, wire, etc are open-minded and creative enough to experiment in live settings and sometimes do very radically different versions of their studio work.
    Object 47 and Send were both made with a lot of cut-and-paste and a lot of Software, and the band Sampling itself. Freakbag mentions Animal Collective, who recorded their new Album in much the same way.
    You're not hearing a band in a room playing, its very processed although O47 has more of a live feel, and the drum tracks sound more Live than before.

    I think its an interesting approach, you can only listen to a Live album so many times and I would rather Wire carried on experimenting and deconstructing rather than getting a load of Valve amps and going down some Retro 'autentic' blues band route.
    Colin mentions in this interview that he's thinking of a different approach for the next record.
    "The next approach has to be, now how do your write? How do you go about this? Maybe production is cut-and-paste but the writing isn't.."
    I wouldn't like to have a Wire album where Wire went into a room, played live and then spat the album out. Conversely, I think some of O47 suffers by being too... Well, I'm not sure what the word is exactly, but it's kind of 'thick' and 'soupy'. There's a lot of great stuff going on in those songs that's somewhat hidden and only apparent in the live tracks. To me, Perspex Icon sounds a hell of a lot better live than it does on the album. That said, some tracks, to my ears, benefit from the album's methods, notably One Of Us.

    Overall, it would be interesting to hear a Wire with much, much greater resources to hand, working in a manner not entirely dissimilar to during the 1970s, in terms of the timing of creating music. Work up tracks, tour them a bit and then record. It seems a lot of the tracks in post-2000 evolve really well when played live (Mr Marx's Table for me being the real revelation during the gigs), and it adds a few more angles and removes a little of the polish. In any case, it'll be interesting to see how this version of Wire evolves over the next couple of years (assuming, of course, that another Wire album appears).
    For one, I enjoy the different production styles on different Wire albums. It shows most strongly in their side projects, but one of the interesting characteristics of the band has always been their interest in playing with the studio (Red Tent, Duet Emmo). The recent material has come across as heavier than a lot of the earlier material, but that doesn't sound like over-production so much as a maturing of the material (like a cheddar that becomes sharper with age - and tastier for it).
    • CommentAuthorcc says...
    • (CommentTimeJan 17th 2009 edited)
    raise your hand if you actually want Wire to "go down a retro blues band route"... anyone? Didn't think so.

    valve amps are another story...
    more noise
    "These are general definitions, mind you, and not mutually exclusive."

    I thought I added that distinction in my diatribe, and there it is again.

    No, I don't suspect that Wire ever landed in a George Martin/Geoff Emerick mode, except perhaps on Snakedrill. Indeed, with someone like Gareth Jones they ended up with Snakedrill's engineer and made him the producer for The Ideal Copy etc. The same pattern could be pointed to with dozens of producers - they worked through the "classic age" studio system as tape operators, then engineers, then producers.

    So yes, it makes perfect sense that along the line the distinctions are blurred.

    My point was only that while indeed the titles and functions of such jobs end up being gray areas as recording technology changes and evolves, there are still ways to point to components of the process and to try to clarify the topic at hand.

    More tomato/tomato, I guess. Ultimately the engineer is generally at the mercy of the artist's and producer's vision of the project anyway, but nevertheless I maintain that Hugh Padgham's big gated drum sound, for example, was far less about production than engineering.

    Semantics, and I'm being picky, but it has always been the engineering that I grumbled about more with something like Send - otherwise I think it is constructed very well.
    • CommentAuthorcc says...
    • (CommentTimeJan 17th 2009 edited)
    7jlong, let me try to put it more clearly: there are a virtually infinite number of ways to record any, say, guitar track, starting with what guitar, what settings on what amp, where and how to place the mic, what pre-amps or compressors to use and how much of them, down to the eq. These are all engineering tasks, yet deciding how to execute them seems to me to fall under production, because the answers to them usually depend on what else is happening in the mix, and especially nowadays, when so many recording artists are their own engineers/producers. Questions that formerly were the producers' main tasks, in the "classic age"--like which songs should this singer sing? should this cut have horns? should we get a different drummer?--are either decided by the artists or simply not asked.

    I'm still not sure how much different decisions in any of these areas would have improved the writing on Object 47, but I'm happy to continue this off-topic, semantic discussion as long as it seemingly annoys alexander!
    surely after 'all these years' one would 'expect' Wire, or any other band, to sound different to what they did when they started out, otherwise they may as well just record one album and re-release it every few years.
    As with bands who progress over the years (read 'change their sound') so do recording techniques and studio's, to imply that a group should 'sound as they did when I heard them live' is, I think, asking a bit too much of them.why would they even bother to go into a studio if that were the case.
    The very REASON we are all 'still' Wire fans is, surely, BECAUSE they continue to change and let their sound 'progress', those who think that Wire 'lost it' after the first three albums are stuck in the same time warp as the hippies who only listen to '60's artists and sixties style music.
    Like the times (they are a'changing) the true test of a musician/writer/artist is that they DON'T play/write/paint the same track/book/painting over and over again, even though some fans would prefer they did.and that would include their 'sound'.
    But to get back to Uri's point, wasn't O47 'put together' from bits and pieces recorded at different intervals and different places? or was that another group that did that. in any case I for one would be somewhat disappointed if all of Wire's, or any other artists, had a raw sound to them on every album.(I'd like to hear what Eno could do if he produced Wire)
    I think they are 'well produced' rather than 'over produced'. after all said and done, it's up to the artist(s) to decide.well that's my 2 cents worth.