35 years separate the inception of Wire and PINS yet a musical lineage can be drawn between the two bands just as it can be between Wire and so many other artists. Joy Division and Johnny Marr, Sonic Youth and R.E.M., Franz Ferdinand and Liars, Tortoise and Teeth of the Sea, they all owe a debt of gratitude to the north London four-piece who emerged out of the ashes of punk music in the late ‘70s with fine-art finesse and a burning desire to re-invent the very fabric of rock’n’roll.
And with freedom, experimentation, obduracy and no little subversion, this much Wire have achieved over a fourteen album recording career. They took the very essence of the popular song – something to which they have consistently adhered ever since – and reconfigured it for the future. It would be no exaggeration to state that they shifted the parameters of music’s place in contemporary art.
Tonight’s setlist is stacked high with songs from their self-titled 14th album. They play the record in its entirety, starting with the galvanic pop of ‘Blogging’ and ‘Joust & Jostle’ before arriving over an hour later at some unidentifiable post-apocalyptic point when they unleash a truly terrifying ‘Harpooned’. As the song disappears in a squall of reverb and feedback, it suddenly feels as if the world as we know it has finally come to an end.
But there are also signs that those sharp, angular edges that surround Wire are starting to soften. Not with the music itself – it still remains as uncompromising, intrinsic and thrilling as ever – but in the songs that they choose to play. Once renowned for not performing any material other than that recorded in the current decade, Wire now scatter their set with selected jewels from their back catalogue. It is genuinely thrilling to hear ‘Blessed State’ again. Taken from their 1979 album 154 it still remains one fantastic, abstract step ahead of the game. And then to have as encores the frenetic minimalism of ‘Brazil’ and the gorgeous ambient pop of ‘Used To’ – both from the previous year’s Chairs Missing – is probably much, much more than you could reasonably expect to experience on a Tuesday night in April.
Earlier, PINS prove that much like Wire they know a thing or two about attitude, the principles of rock’n’roll and how best to communicate the art form that is the popular song. Augmented by Kyoko on keys, the Manchester four-piece suddenly sound much more together as a unit as they splice older songs – the bookends to their rather wonderful set are ‘Lost Lost Lost’ and the exhilarating title track of their debut album Girls Like Us – with some of the newer material that will appear on their second long player Wild Nights which is due out in June.
More photos of Wire can be found here
And more photos of PINS can be found here