[live review] wire, factory floor @ the lexington, london
November 11, 2010
Concert date: November 8, 2010
When I saw that post-punk legends Wire were playing a couple of intimate gigs (organised by web music magazine of distinction, The Quietus) at one of my favourite small venues (Islington’s The Lexington) I jumped at the chance to go. I wasn’t quite ready for Wire first time ’round, but having discovered, many years later, their seminal first three albums (Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154, released about a year apart from 1977-79) I was bowled over by their artful anger on the one hand and their intelligent lyricism on the other. Theirs was a brand of punk that could mean something to people who weren’t there. I say “was” but, via a couple of personnel comings-and-goings, they’re still here and still productive, adding to their catalogue of two-minutes-or-less bursts of indignant energy (on the one hand) and wistful melody (on the other). Of course, I never got around to exploring their post-154 output – though I don’t suppose I’m alone in that.
The evening amply rewarded my enthusiasm. Just not in the way I thought it would.
The band – original members Colin Newman (pictured above, right), Graham Lewis (left) and Robert Gotobed (wonderful name; centre) plus touring guitarist Matt Simms – are as tight as ever, and their early, familiar (to me) catalogue still sounds great. The new material (they release a new album, Red Barked Tree, early next year) is solid if not distinctively so, and the set was a good mix of old a new.
But it didn’t quite catch fire. Maybe it was the disconnection between the maturity and politeness of the band members now (particularly Newman) and the youthful antagonism of their best songs, or perhaps simply that expectations were too high. For me, though, it was the fact that as a live performance in 2010 (the music on their three late-70s releases remains among the best rock ever recorded) they were outshone by the support act, Factory Floor.
Taking their cue from the bands that emerged just a few years after Wire – Cabaret Voltaire, 23 Skidoo, early New Order perhaps – but wringing those bands’ proto-industrial sound/sensibility through a post-techno filter, Factory Floor push all the right buttons (and twiddle the right knobs).
Their two key tracks to date – Lying and A Wooden Box (listen to both here) – formed the bedrock of their set, showcasing their method perfectly: live drumming and sample-triggering over jagged, sequenced synth patterns; Dada-esque cut-up lyrics chanted by a haunting female vocalist (à la Nico); punctuation in the form of electronic hiss and white noise, and bowed/rubbed guitar feedback. Really quite sublime.
One hopes the other tracks they played will see a release soon as, to these ears, Factory Floor are the most exciting band right in town right now.