Wire’s 154, released in 1979, has been hard to ignore with this list, being one of those albums that helped invent the future, gave birth to all manner of sounds and textures that would come to define the decade known as the 1980s, which is now ancient history, of course. But 154 continues to stand up, songs usually as sharp and short as they are lyrically obtuse. Though A Touching Display goes the other way with a vengeance – an epic and passionate display of song as weapon, particularly as things erupt past the midpoint, like a bomber the size of a football stadium off to deliver a payload that would destroy the known world. And it did.
The fourteenth of a planned forty-nine movies (without pictures), each forty-nine minutes long, featuring no particular artist, theme or agenda beyond boldly going … who knows? Or as Werner Von Braun once put it, “Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.” And we definitely have no idea where all this will take us.
14. Voodoo + Fish
T-Rex – cosmic dancer
Sugarloaf – chest fever [prelude]
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – crossfade
Moebius Plank + Neumeir – speed display
Agitation Free – Sahara City
Riuchi Sakamoto – kachakuchanee
Colin Newman – fish-9
Colin Newman – fish-3
Clinic – Voodoo Wop
Mott the Hoople – original mixed up kid
John Martyn – glistening Glyndebourne
David Sylvian – incantation
? – a very big marsh
Further installments of the Research Series will air most Sundays at approximately 1am (Pacific time) c/o CiTR.FM.101.9, with Mixcloud streams usually available within twenty-four hours.
“A tight modern pop song with the kind of sharp, icy edge that defines a sonic future for all mankind. Which is pretty much what Wire did in 1979 with 154 (one of the greatest albums of any time) and songs like the 15th. Hell, I didn’t even hear it until at least five years later, called up the DJ because I had to know what this cool new song was.” (Philip Random)
“Somehow I missed Wire completely the first time around. Three future inventing albums culminating with 1979’s 154 at which point they went their separate ways for a long while. Then came 1987’s Ideal Copy, which was way too good to not get curious about, which eventually led me back to 154 and the revelation that, holy sh**, this album invented the 1980s (sort of). The energy of punk driving something smarter, more abstract and intense, taking it way behind enemy lines. No wonder they took a seven year break.” (Philip Random)
“Speaking of Wire, I finally paid attention to them in 1987 when, after more than seven years doing various solo and other things, the four original members recombined with the The Ideal Copy (and some dynamite single-only releases). Ambitious gets the nod here because it’s more or less the title track, and it does a sharp, tidy job of touching on all manner of essential 1980s topics such as paranoia, the Cold War, competing intelligence agencies and, of course, the ever present end of the world.” (Philip Random)