Bookends "On The Box": Wire phase 3: CD/DVD
John L Murphy | Los Angeles | 07/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I believe, among superstitious actors, that "The Scottish Play" refers to the work that should not be pronounced which we know as "Macbeth." Typically erudite for our always sly Wire! I plucked this at a record store going out of business; I had no idea it was issued, even though I count myself a Wire fan. On Amazon, as it's filed only under DVDs, you may be confused about its contents. "The Scottish Play: 2004" bookends "On the Box: 1979" as the latest rather than the earlier Wire. It's a 53-minute Tom Gidley DVD concert film plus CD soundtrack for the Glasgow show. The songs are largely from the Read & Burn and Send period of Wire phase 3, with a more aggressive focus than their experimental-meets-dancefloor late 80's phase 2. A few songs at the end of the film hearken back to their late 70s art-punk. This is no posed passion, but a true act of "performance."
Much more watchable than the usual music film, Gidley tracks each member as if documenting a stage drama more than merely a camera set up in front of the band. It's amusing to see Bruce Gilbert play the stolid John Entwistle role. Intelligent lighting, expressive close-ups, and vocalization aspire to theatre (especially in the Barbican installation), not concert.
The tracks from Glasgow 30 April 2004: 99.9; Germ Ship; Mr. Marx's Table; 1st Fast; Read & Burn; Agfers of Kodack; Comet; In the Art of Stopping; Spent; I Don't Understand; Strange; 106 Beats That; Surgeon's Girl; 106 Beats That. A 13-minute bonus section, only on the DVD, with each band member filmed from a separate box as part of Es Devlin's installation from a London Barbican "Flag Burning" show, 26 April 2003: 1st Fast; Comet; Spent; I Don't Understand. A highlight: "Pink Flag" takes 9:43!
Compared to the Chicago show, 14 Sept. 2002, given as a bonus from Pink Flag to mail-order buyers of "Send," the intensity of these eagerly snappy versions is lessened. As the band plays them over two years, the later versions appear to dig deeper and a bit slower into the depth that lurks behind their initially more frenetic birth. Vocals appealingly wrap into the lyrics and burrow. Repetition locks the band into catharsis--depending upon an informed, mature, if no less raging, visceral relationship with what these four Londoners continue to refine and re-engineer as cutting-edge post-punk art, essence, distillation."