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Wire: The Scottish Play: 2004

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Album Review

In the Shakespeare tragedy referenced by The Scottish Play video's title, Macbeth compares life to the work of a performer who "struts and frets his hour upon the stage," ultimately amounting to "sound and fury, signifying nothing." Wire's April 2004 performance at Glasgow's Tramway Theatre might not grapple with metaphysical issues, but there's much strutting and fretting, and plenty of sound and fury. When the band resumed live activity in 2000, it did so with surprisingly assaultive gusto. Tom Gidley's concert film captures that aspect of latter-day Wire: four angry not-so-young men in heavy metal dancefloor mode, charging through a set of largely recent material with an intensity and urgency rivaling their sound circa Pink Flag. After the barrage of tracks like "Comet" and "Spent," the chugging "I Don't Understand" offers a momentary respite, then the band proceeds to torch some of its oldest numbers, eventually signing off with a rough-edged makeover of "Pink Flag." Rather than offer a flat, one-dimensional concert film, Gidley's cameras focus in on the bandmembers' individual labors. A sweaty Graham Lewis throttles his bass while Colin Newman dances around like someone at the office Christmas party after a few too many drinks. By contrast, drummer Robert Grey is a picture of focus. The odd man out is Bruce Gilbert, standing almost in the wings; although he gives the impression of never having seen a guitar before, he adds a crucial layer of noise, often without seeming to move his hands. The Scottish Play is an excellent document of a band refusing to age gracefully. [The video portion also contains footage from a 2003 event at London's Barbican: four songs from the Read & Burn EPs showcase Es Devlin's Samuel Beckett-meets-Spinal Tap set design, which places the bandmembers in separate boxes lined across the stage; also included in some releases is an audio set of the Tramway gig.]


Formed: 1976 in London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Wire emerged out of the British punk explosion but, from the outset and decades after, maintained a distance from that scene and resisted easy categorization. While punk rapidly became a caricature of itself, Wire's musical identity -- focused on experimentation and process -- was constantly metamorphosing. Their first three albums alone attest to a startling evolution as the band repeatedly reinvented itself between 1977 and 1979. That capacity for self-reinvention, coupled with a willingness to...
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