The San Francisco group Wire Train made a big splash with their first album, 1983's In a Chamber. The quartet played a layered, mysterious kind of guitar rock that drew from post-punk's energy, the trippiness of psychedelia, and the solid songcraft of bands from the Byrds to the Flamin' Groovies. There were a few other bands around making similar sounds -- the Church, to name the most obvious -- but there weren't any bands this hooky or immediate. The album unspools like a greatest hits collection, as one great song follows another. The up-tempo songs are like little bursts of gloomy energy, with the rhythm section of bassist Anders Rundblad and drummer Federico Gil-Sola pushing the songs forward and the guitars of Kevin Hunter and Kurt Herr chiming and sparking like downed wires. "Chamber of Hellos" is the big hit, an almost insanely catchy modern pop rocker that has the kind of chorus that's instantly recognizable after many decades. The jangle pop gem "Never" is instantly imprinted on the brain, "I'll Do You" is another great upbeat rocker with an insistent chorus, and "I Forget It All" is the more eager to please cousin of Modern English's "I Melt With You." If the record were nothing but ten of those types of songs, it might be known as one of the great fist-pumping, feel-good new wave albums. It's more than that though. There are a couple of slower, moodier songs that expand and enhance the impact of the record. "Slow Down"'s dubby bass lines, clicky guitars, and nicely disenchanted vocals and the Felt-like spiraling guitars of the darkly drawn "Like" show another side of the band, and do it well. In a Chamber may not get the same regard that other albums like it have received -- possibly because it was actually popular -- but there weren't many early '80s guitar pop albums with the hooks, sound, or appeal of Wire Train's debut.
Review by Tim Sendra