Document & Eyewitness 1979-1980

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Just as Wire was capable of innovative, intelligent, and pleasurable music, it also had a knack for mystifying and frustrating fans. The latter was particularly true of the group live. Although this set featured Wire in an accessible mode on material recorded in 1979 at the Notre Dame Hall and in Montreux, most of the tracks derive from a 1980 gig at the Electric Ballroom that found the band at its most challenging. Save a version of "12XU," Wire played material that was previously unreleased, under-rehearsed, at times unrecognizable as rock music and, at others, almost unlistenable. More difficult pieces like the Beefheart-esque "Eels Sang Lino" feature some combination of abrasive, off-kilter, repetitive arrangements, dissonance, and shouting. While some numbers border on the cacophonous, others are pared down, displaying little traditional song structure. On "Zegk Hoqp," for instance, Graham Lewis chants seemingly random letters to the accompaniment of percussion. Still, the chaotic proceedings do coalesce into more familiar song formats on tracks like "We Meet Under Tables." The material from the 1979 gigs -- particularly "Heartbeat" -- proves Wire was capable of conventional performances. However, at the Electric Ballroom, the band had little interest in "playing a concert." In keeping with the spirit of its punk origins and with a measure of humor, Wire yielded artistic authority and surrendered the notion of a scripted set to chance, inviting its audience to react and participate in the event. Listened to in those terms, the show was successful, albeit not in the way Wire had envisaged. The band was subjected to considerable abuse and, during "Instrumental (Thrown Bottle)," Colin Newman can be heard reacting to a near miss from a flying beer bottle. Given the idiosyncratic nature of the Electric Ballroom performance (and the low quality of the recording), this album will be of interest only to die-hard Wire aficionados.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 4:01
2 4:20
3 1:22
4 2:47
5 2:46
6 1:58
7 3:01
8 3:12
9 6:00
10 1:47 Amazon
11 2:38
12 1:04
13 5:19 Amazon
14 3:05
15 5:28
16 3:03
17 2:12 Amazon
18 3:04
19 2:33
20 9:00
21 3:34
22 4:33
blue highlight denotes track pick