Thursday, 4 September 2014

Wire - Manscape (1990)

I'm not quite sure why I don't have more by Wire. I can appreciate them for sure, but for some reason, for all their dazzling brilliance, I've never found myself actively seeking out their records. Consequently those objects I do possess tend to have been picked up in bargain bins because it was Wire and it was cheap and I couldn't quite work out why I'd never got around to buying the thing when it came out. Manscape found its way to me by a friend in England who sends me money by converting pound notes into dollar bills at the bank, and then concealing these within the casing of a compact disc which he sticks in the mail. He lives off the grid, as the expression has it, without anything resembling a bank account, and this really is the easiest way for him to pay me for services rendered. He's also a fan of Wire, but I imagine this one wasn't so much to his liking.

Apparently recorded under the increased influence of dance music as it stood around the close of the eighties, Manscape differs from other Wire releases in sounding very much like they knocked it out in a studio recently vacated by Duran Duran. It has that same drum machine sound, those same McGeochisms in the guitar department, and a suggestion of brightly coloured suits with shoulder pads and promotional videos with everyone doing that eighties dance in which you keep your elbows still whilst jerking your quiff from side to side; but, it's still Wire, and it sounds like Wire. It took a good few plays before I stopped asking myself what is this shit?, but I got there eventually.

Obviously it's not a patch on Chairs Missing, but it's not actually bad once you get past the cognitive dissonance, and arguably constitutes a worthy exercise in seeing if gold can be wrought from the sort of hairspray fuelled production which keeps threatening to break into Addicted to Love; and surprisingly it can, although maybe not so surprisingly as I suppose PIL and Simple Minds usually managed the same trick well enough. Manscape is further aided by Wire's peculiarly self-aware lyrical concerns falling somewhere between those of David Byrne and Laurie Anderson, and the simple fact of there being some fucking great arrangements on here, particularly on Where's the Deputation? and What Do You See? both of which have more than a whiff of Severed Heads about them.

Thinking about it, Manscape feels like the work of a band who've just discovered Come Visit the Big Bigot in some respects, which can only be a good thing, even if it's not necessarily the first reason why you might want to buy a record by Wire.

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