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    This site is called PinkFlag, and Wire's reputation is largely based on their first 3 Albums. Rightly so, as they are all still very exciting and intriguing records.

    But lets hear it for the somewhat neglected, less heralded 80s stuff produced by Wire mk II.

    OK taken as a whole none of the 80s LPs quite measure up to the EMI LPs. A lot of it suffers under some overcooked 80s production which either hasn't aged well, or maybe it just hasn't come of age..yet.

    They probably weren't much fun to make either. But scratch away and you'll find loads of interesting stuff. Even the much maligned "Manscape" isn't as as bad as some critics would have you believe.

    Best of all, across the whole period there is a bunch of fantastic, bent and broken pop songs as good as Map Ref, I Am The Fly, Outdoor Miner etc. and of course The Drill, a constant background dugga dugga dugga which underpins the whole period.
    For newcomers, 'The A List' is the best place to start.

    Its also the first time there are some visuals to go with the music, and Wire did a great job of presenting themselves and we get more a sense of who these people are...and what a bloody weird band they are. Smartly dressed, strange, arty, aloof, a bit sinister, rather grumpy, but also funny in the same way that Kraftwerk are funny.

    Most unlike the cardigan wearing bouncy Housemartins and 60s jangly guitar merchants that were around at the same time.
    Not convinced? Go on Youtube and find the video for Eardrum Buzz and the Late Show version of Drill.

    Great to have Boiling Boy back in the set, and I get the impression Object 47 will have some of the strangeness and otherworldiness of 80s Wire.
    You're quite right Tim - eighties Wire produced some classic stuff, especially end of the eighties Wire - with albums like A Bell Is A Cup, The Ideal Copy and IBTABA, which - whilst not as instant as the seventies albums, are certainly growers and contain some really great moments.

    I must say though, Wire didn't get off to a great start in the eighties (I'm sure plenty would argue) with the live Document And Eyewitness, an album I find quite difficult to listen to and don't think I have ever managed a complete sitting of!

    The Drill was interesting, though was actually released at the beginning of the nineties, rather than the eighties, as was Manscape.
    I'm a fan of the great majority of Wire's eighties/early nineties work--"The Ideal Copy" is my favorite, and I agree that "Manscape" has been unfairly maligned. 'Children of Groceries' is in my Wire Top Ten.
    I actually arrived at Wire via the 80s albums. Ideal Copy and Bell... were the first things I heard from the band, and Ahead became totally lodged in my head. It was kind of like other stuff I was listening to at the time, but it had something more, and was somehow fresh. In hindsight, the 80s stuff has, as others said, massive production issues, but some of the music is still good. Looking at my 'rating of 4 or 5' smart playlist in iTunes, most of Ideal Copy is in there, as is a fair chunk of Bell. After that, it's more a series of 'moments' for me (Eardrum Buzz, You Hung your Lights..., Patterns of Behaviour, In Every City?, Jumping Mint, So and Slow...), but there's good stuff there, and it's a pity people are so generally dismissive of this period in Wire's history.
    I am always intrigued by the argument (Colin has made it, and it appears above again) that the material was overproduced in the 80s. TIC/Snakedrill to me feel like a succinct statement about the return of Wire as placed against the emergence of new recording technologies. The Miller/Jones productions feel great to me. Let's hear it for Cheeking Tongues!

    Bell... is as big and glossy as I feel it should be. The melodies and arrangements were much more lush and expansive (Colin's solo trends and He Said influencing nicely), and it would have been awkward to try to dumb it down to some kind of faux punk-rock production/engineering. Follow the Locust and Ur/Um (two of my favorites, hands down) would have fallen apart.

    IBTABA always felt, to me, like a Bell outtakes album. Don't have much to say about that, though The Offer is an amazing track and it always tickles me to read Graham describing it as "a delight" in the Eden book - a 100% accurate description.

    Manscape might be the trouble. I can't, though, imagine Lights/Craftsman's being done any other way (but I guess that's because I didn't write it). This record could have been done differently, I will admit that. But when it works, it works fantastically well - see Sixth Sense, Morning Bell, Other Moments, etc. InjunNoise is absolutely right about Children of Groceries: it's amazing fun. The samples are priceless. I'd be interested to hear Graham's original demo; there is some discussion in Everybody Loves a History of it having a quality that the Manscape version lost. Hmm.

    The Drill was probably exactly what it should have been when you factor in their process on this record. In Every City? is very cool, and track down Tonal Evidence for an interesting alternate (early?) version.

    The First Letter felt like they really worked out how Wire should sound in (that) digital age. Recommended: A Big Glue Canal, Ticking Mouth, Looking At Me (Githead could cover this quite nicely), and Footsi-Footsi (could have fit onto a H.A.L.O release).

    It would be interesting to hear how the material might have worked if things had gone differently. But as I've commented in another thread, the danger of looking back at that period as being too glossy or overproduced is that it might result in going too far in the other direction. I don't mind that Nice Streets Above is an absolute screamer and demands my attention with layers of great stuff, that is definitely part of its charm, but does it have to sound so brutally recorded? It is just as densely produced as Mk II tracks, so is the harsh sound to compensate for possible perceptions of the production? Or something?

    (p.s: I like their work on Fingers and Thumbs, too bad about the track itself)
    "the material was overproduced in the 80s"
    I think the current thinking isn't that it was overproduced, more that it was badly produced. This is increasingly true as you move away from Snakedrill and IC. It'd definitely be interesting to hear different takes - the hell-for-leather live version of Ahead sounds fantastic on the bootleg I have.
    Well, as I tried to dance around a bit in my entry, I of course have no idea how any of these *could* have sounded (except the fleeting Coatings or other officially released items), only how they do now.

    That said, I think the bulk of what we're left with fits the bill. As for badly produced (this all comes back to Manscape, doesn't it? or are there others that people question?), I will agree 100% that Life in the Manscape, Stampede, and Goodbye Ploy were all left in the oven just a bit too long. Where's the Deputation? suffers but does not completely topple - their are some great bits in that one. OK, I'll say it, I can't stand Small Black Reptile. There has to be some other way to get that one right. I know I'm in the minority on that one.

    I'm not holding them up as holy relics immune to criticism, but Snakedrill, The Ideal Copy, and Bell were not, in my singular and humble opinion, badly produced. At all.

    (p.s. I just want to make sure that we're all on the same page, here: badly produced = poor decisions were made about how the parts were laid out and the music was assembled; badly engineered = the sound quality itself is reminiscent of old poo)
    Leaving aside the magnificent Snakedrill and the mostly great but overproduced Ideal Copy and going forward one year, the worthwhile stuff for me from 1988 - 91 I made an hour long compilation that appears on my pod as "Lock Up Your Hats" (an original working title for what became A Bell...)

    1 Goodbye Ploy
    2 Other Moments
    3 Morning Bell
    4 Sixth Sense
    5 A Craftsman's Touch
    6 So And Slow It Grows
    7 Footsi - Footsi
    8 It Continues
    9 Tailor Made
    10 Boiling Boy
    11 Follow The Locust
    12 In Vivo (I really hated this when it came out, but found it grew on me in recent years... funny that)

    My tuppence ha'penny's worth anyway...
    I really like IBTABA, the others not as much but 80s Wire was good.
    For me, 80s Wire is very special, having 'discovered' them in '85, just in time for the second coming. Hearing that wonderful skewed pop for the first time was marvellous. I can distinctly remember not being able to get Eardrum Buzz out of my head for bloody ages! The swines! What perfect aural torture!! There are too many special moments to try to describe.
    On the subject of 'badly produced', I really don't understand what the fuss is about. Even if you think that a particular piece of music could have been assembled or organised in a more beneficial way, the actual item you listen to is what you get and you grow to appreciate the imperfections. But maybe I'm tone deaf. As described above, a bootleg recording can make for difficult listening yet be more successful than the recorded version of the same track... you have all sorts of glitches and wonderful accidents. The bootleg of The Museum of Modern Art gig is superb. Very vital and textured. Here's hoping that the new 'un has plenty of that mysterious, indefinable aura.
    Maybe we should start a Children of Groceries fanclub? Definitely one of my faves, along with Big Glue Canal.
    Take Drill out of the equation, and I think 80's Wire does seem to be in danger of being written out of the history books, which would be a shame.

    I think Snakedrill, Ideal Copy, A Bell Is A Cup and IBTABA are excellent releases. It was certainly great to hear Boiling Boy being played live as it's always been one of my fave Wire tracks. The bit where Colin sings "He transferred his soul to his imagination" is just one of those bits that gets me everytime!

    I haven't got a problem with the production on these records personally. They are what they are, 80's records in the same way that Pink Flag is, for all its virtues, obviously a 70's album. I'm less keen on Manscape and First Letter, although I absolutely adore the single version of So & Slow It Grows. I played the cd single today and I've got to say I really like the other tracks on that ep, too.

    Unlike Fergus I never *hated* In Vivo at the time, but I did find it slightly disappointing. However, like Fergus, I think it sounds better now. I played it the other day in fact and was only thinking how good it's sounding these days.
    "Maybe we should start a Children of Groceries fanclub?"
    I'm in! It's a fantastic track. And, yeah, '80s Wire is pretty much dismissed, bar Drill, which is a massive shame. Although '80s Wire rarely meets the heights of the EMI stuff or the PF output, there is a lot of great music there. As for production, I think the issue in the '80s is that some of the production was very heavy-handed and compromised the sound far more than during any other Wire period. This is particularly true of some of Manscape, which has some excellent ideas that are drowned in nasty electronics. That said, without the process, we wouldn't have gotten such gems as YHYLITT and Children of Groceries.

    Anyway, my Wire Mk II CD/A-list, with a few favourites mercilessly not making the cut in the process:

    1. Ahead (The Ideal Copy)
    2. It's A Boy (A Bell Is A Cup Until It Is Struck)
    3. The Queen Of Ur And The King Of Um (A Bell Is A Cup Until It Is Struck)
    4. Footsi - Footsi (The First Letter)
    5. Advantage In Height (Snakedrill)
    6. Eardrum Buzz (12" Version) (It's Beginning To And Back Again)
    7. Small Black Reptile (Manscape)
    8. Ambitious (Remix) (Silk Skin Paws)
    9. Silk Skin Paws (A Bell Is A Cup Until It Is Struck)
    10. So And Slow It Grows (So And Slow It Grows)
    11. In Every City? (The Drill)
    12. Cheeking Tongues (The Ideal Copy)
    13. Kidney Bingos (A Bell Is A Cup Until It Is Struck)
    14. Madman's Honey (Alternate Mix) (Coatings)
    15. Take It (LFO Remix) (So And Slow It Grows)
    16. You Hung Your Lights In The Trees/A Craftsman's Touch (Manscape)
    17. Children Of Groceries (Manscape)
    The great thing about the evolution of Wire over all these years has been ability for the lastest version of the band to be new and fresh whilst still retaining the spirit of what came before, if you know what I mean.

    From my own personal point of view, I'd opened the the door marked "Wire" at some point in between Mk1 and Mk2. What this meant was when Mk2 started business and the various live tapes started to crop up it was like finding a new band, it's just that you knew their names already. What was that famous quote from Colin at the time of the Waterloo Gallery gig when the crowd were asking for an encore, "I'm sorry but we don't know anymore song" or something along those lines.

    As for the production of those "beat group" albums, well they are certainly of their time, but if were honest they, and "Bell" specifically, haven't aged quite as gracefully as Mk1 albums, but look past the that 80s gloss and there is that unique something there that makes Wire Wire. And ain't that a beautiful thing
    Well, we're all going to have different takes on what Wire Mk II records were/are and what they mean individually to each of us. Looking over what 1987 offered the world in terms of new music I still think that Wire released an excellent and intriguing document in The Ideal Copy that flattened a lot of other releases. It is amazing to remember that this is the same year that Bruce Willis, Debbie Gibson, and Tiffany decided to grace the world with their musical prowess.

    As for production, I am also reminded that this is the year that Yes released Big Generator, Aerosmith released Permanent Vacation, Mick Jagger released Primitive Cool, Springsteen released Tunnel of Love, Eurythmics released Savage, Bowie released Never Let Me Down, Belinda went solo and put out Heaven..., and Depeche Mode released Music for the Masses. In my opinion, dramatically overstated production on every last one of them (or just lousy tunes, in the case of a few). Each of these records screams Put! Me! On! The! Radio!. I don't feel TIC (or Bell, or IBTABA) ever did that (well, OK, the LP version of Kidney Bingos certainly had a lot of polish to it). Manscape had a few troubling moments, which we've already discussed. If anything, it is the singles (their IBTABA inclusions aside) that were pushed towards the most radio-friendly and polished to a high shine: Eardrum Buzz and In Vivo. Not two of my favorites, admittedly. I've always preferred the remix of Eardrum Buzz - it's got more Dugga.

    Against what might be considered their "peers" (you know what I'm getting at here, I know some will quibble about these mentions, whatever) they were in pretty good company, each going about things in their own way. Lots of great stuff came out then: Sonic Youth's Sister, Hüsker Dü's Warehouse (flawed, but has some good stuff), Strangeways Here We Come, Kiss Me x3, Front 242's Official Version, etc.

    Within this context The Ideal Copy is, to me, a fine example of tempered embracing of modern recording technologies and its application to the Beat Combo concept that Wire was working within at the time. It is well documented that at the very least Graham and Colin had a strong interest in sampling/MIDI/etc. Why wouldn't these new tools be applied to the Wire concept? In some cases they seem tailor made.

    As for subsequent records, well, the whole get-past-the-gloss thing is one that could be argued for some time without resolution, but to what end? It would be interesting to hear what, if anything, band members would want to address if given the time/chance/inclination (Wire was never much for looking back, its true). Would The Ideal Copy be a different record if the sessions weren't so tense and guided by the Dome power bloc (as discussed in the book)? Should Bell/Cup have been more Dome-y and less It Seems-ish? Should Colin have produced/mixed Manscape?

    It could go on for hours. For me, I'll take the records the way they are. For better or worse, 80s sheen or not, they, to me, are brilliant and succinct documents in fine Wire tradition. It would be a terrible, hideous bore (I suspect) if they tried to make Chairs Missing 2 in 1987. What's the point?

    I do, however, love the famous Bruce quote about Bell/Cup not being a significant contribution to 20th century culture... ha!
    Bell/Cup was the first Wire record I ever bought and remains one of my favourites to this day. Controversially I'd say it's far superior than The Ideal Copy. The 12 inch version of In Vivo is another immense Wire product. There are so many high points in Wire's 80s/early 90s output. Just listen beyond some of the production techniques of the time and treasure is there to be discovered.
    I've picked up all the 80's albums and the only one that has really struck a chord with me is IBTABA. I do prefer the single versions of Eardrum Buzz and In Vivo, just beautifully crafted pop songs and up there with the rest (Outdoor Miner, The my kids can sing along to them!) but the IBTABA versions are interesting, particularly Eardrum buzz. The production on this album also seems to be the best out of the bunch, and the drums sound fantastic (are they all live?)

    Would be good if they played more of these songs in upcoming gigs, German Sheperd can definitely be played on guitars and drums and still sound respectable...may be a bit cheesey for them to play eardrum buzz live now!
    I was completely unaware that "Wire's reputation is largely based on their first 3 Albums". Based on the outstanding Send and the Read and Burn series, I must say that Wire are indeed doing their best work now. Such has been, however, always the case. For those of us who have been fortunate enough to follow their work contemporaneously from its beginning there is no question that Wire have been the most consistent group in modern music in terms of the quality and originality of their output. It is all obviously Wire, yet never repetitive. Each release has striking originality, expanding and enhancing the concept of what their music is, always pushing the boundaries of its moment, yet maintaining an underlying essence of stylistic continuity that makes it immediately identifiable to those who have followed the evolution of Wire's music. Accomplishing both these ends over the course of their time has been a challenge met by virtually no one else. We are very fortunate that they have maintained their commitment to these objectives and have succeeded so admirably in achieving them.
    Blimey! didn't know that some didnae rate Wire mark 2 much - it's my fave Wire period! full of great soundscapes & thumping pop/rock songs, imaginative (if not downright obscure) lyrics & simply GREAT production!!

    couple of people above have suggested that these lp's were 'over-produced'! crazy! when u buy an lp you wanna hear it how the artist intended, not through a 'fog' caused by poor production. many of the early punk bands' records were of poor production, but that was ok (to a certain extent) as it was about raw power & they were done on the cheap just to get it released, often on an independent label. but as a band matures, so should everything about it including production - all the more power to 'em i say!
    re: the drums on IBTABA sounding live...

    i've always guessed that the drums probably are live, at least on the reworked songs, since i've read that a lot of the material was assembled from live recordings which were re-crafted (drastically?) in the studio.
    As I understand it, that's pretty much it—the drums are from the live tapes, and almost everything else was overdubbed.