Not About to Die
The transitions that Wire have been through between Brit-punk’s dawn and the present day could fill volumes of encyclopedia, all without sentiment or concession to rock’s blues. Yet no switch has been more dramatic for the sharded-art avatars than the gap between Chairs Missing’s minimal crack in 1978 and the forlorn, Bowie’s-Low-like synthiness of ’79’s 154. Long available as a bootleg, Not About to Die was crammed end-to-end with the breathtaking demos for both of these records’ even more radical display than what Newman, Graham, and co. then committed to vinyl.
So, yes, Not About to Die is released now as a testament to post-punk’s gleaming—that time where Wire, John Foxx’s Ultravox, and Johnny Lydon’s Public Image Ltd came of age. But Wire, never sentimental, don’t use this volume to reminisce. Instead, it’s a cool catalog of manic, embryonic versions of curt Wire cuts from Chairs Missing (“Being Sucked in Again,” “Used To”) and even more nascent, scattered sketches for moody 154 tracks such as “On Returning” and “Two People in a Room.”
For casual Wire fans looking for how a deceptively simple schematic becomes great, decorous architecture, Not About to Die is a find. For Wire fanatics, the often-coarse collection is a necessity—especially considering planned-then-scrapped Wire ideas for Colin Newman’s vocal powerhouse like “Love Ain’t Polite,” a crushing, cruising “It’s the Motive,” the energetic, Station-to-Station-esque “Stepping Off Too Quick,” and Graham’s study in baritone ice-soul “Ignorance No Plea (I Should Have Known Better) (6th Demo).” This may sound like a cliché, but with Wire, even its discards and demos are better than most artists’ entire careers.