1985-1990: The A List is a fine 16-track compilation of the highlights from Wire's surprising and successful comeback. This material isn't quite as essential as their early output -- Wire doesn't sound as revolutionary on these sides, although the music is still high-quality. It bears some similarities to the sort of '80s college-radio synth/guitar pop being produced by the likes of New Order and the Cure, although it isn't as danceable, and it retains Wire's signature love of dissonance and pure sonic oddity. The more controlled, polished sound of this material may tone down the heady excitement of their early albums, or seem a bit mechanical at times, but it's intriguing to hear the high-tech production values that were missing from their initial attempts at creating layers of detail in their arrangements, and there are some fine pop songs here as well. The A List could have been sequenced better -- its track listing was determined through a poll of fans, various critics, and band associates, and the selections were simply arranged according to which ones received the largest number of votes, meaning that the compilation loses a little steam since many of the best songs appear toward the beginning. Still, that's a minor flaw, especially since The A List is such a handy overview of the band's uneven comeback albums. It's the best way to hear catchy slices of post-punk avant-pop like "Ahead," "Kidney Bingos," "Eardrum Buzz," and "In Vivo," and for all but the most devoted, The A List is probably all that's necessary from this period.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Huey