Wire

154

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    9
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Named for the number of live gigs Wire had played to that point, 154 refines and expands the innovations of Chairs Missing, with producer Mike Thorne's synthesizer effects playing an even more integral role; little of Pink Flag's rawness remains. If Chairs Missing was a transitional album between punk and post-punk, 154 is squarely in the latter camp, devoting itself to experimental soundscapes that can sound cold and forbidding at times. However, the best tracks retain their humanity thanks to the arrangements' smooth, seamless blend of electronic and guitar textures and the beauty of the group's melodies. Where previously some of Wire's hooks could find themselves buried or not properly brought out, the fully fleshed-out production of 154 lends a sweeping splendor to "The 15th," the epic "A Touching Display," "A Mutual Friend," and the gorgeous (if obscurely titled) "Map Ref. 41°N 93°W." Not every track is a gem, as the group's artier tendencies occasionally get the better of them, but 154's best moments help make it at least the equal of Chairs Missing. It's difficult to believe that a band that evolved as quickly and altered its sound as restlessly as Wire did could be out of ideas after only three years and three albums, but such was the case according to its members, and with their (temporary, as it turned out) disbandment following this album, Wire's most fertile and influential period came to a close.

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