Wire, It’s Beginning To and Back Again

Douglas Wolk

By Douglas Wolk

on 07.14.11 in Reviews

It’s Beginning To And Back Again


The third album from the reconvened Wire, released in 1989, is a very odd but very likeable set of process music — not quite a live album, not quite a remix album. Most of it was built around live recordings from the A Bell Is a Cup tour, which were then extensively reworked in the studio. The repertoire includes four songs from A Bell (as well as one from The Ideal Copy that had already appeared in a live version on A Bell) a couple of B-sides, and a cut-and-paste collage of spoken-word samples and a dance beat (“Illuminated”) in the vein of M/A/R/R/S’ “Pump Up the Volume”; those were augmented by two new studio-recorded singles, “Eardrum Buzz” and “In Vivo,” the former of which also appears in an IBTABA-ized version that converts its sparkling chorus to a minor-key death-rattle.

A very odd but very likeable set of process music

You could call it a retrenchment, except that it’s fantastically enjoyable both as a dance record and as a headphone record. “Eardrum Buzz,” in particular, became a full-on modern-rock hit, and the re-recordings crack open and stretch out the songs to reveal huge, echoing spaces, misty trails of Bruce Gilbert’s favorite kinds of noise, and guitar-bass-drum arrangements that avoid the sound of Pink Flag as if rock itself is booby-trapped.