The ceiling fans struggle to push the air around the sort of rammed pub upper room bands of Wire’s stature rarely visit. But in a 37-year career, including two breaks inevitable for a group its singer and co-songwriter Colin Newman characterises as prone to “psychic warfare”, Wire have fought furiously to avoid rock normality.
“They don’t sound as weird as they used to,” comments a woman who has randomly entered the pub tonight with strong memories of their debut Pink Flag’s strangeness in punk 1977. The loop of their influence means that “Adore Your Island”, from last year’s Change Becomes Us, recalls the Wire-inspired Blur.
But the way Newman’s voice sinks sadly at the end of “As We Go”’s passages of choppy, chiming guitar, like “Swallow”’s feedback-flecked, rainbow-arc finish, remains singular. “Stealth of a Stork"’s stealthy riff triggers sporadic pogoing, while Newman’s tribal wail during the dragging, heavy “Harpooned” gets a more sensual response from some female dancers.
Tagged as post-punk because they quickly shed punk’s constricting chrysalis, Wire are psychedelically expansive too. There is still a querulous, dissatisfied itch to bassist Graham Lewis’s words as Newman sings them. Their business is unfinished.