too much typing—since 2003


Hello, Dunsinane? My name's Birnam Wood

So I finally got around to watching the DVD half of the new Wire release, The Scottish Play (which is being sold as a 2-disc CD/DVD increasingly popular option, it seems). Filmed primarily in closeup, the CD and DVD halves document the same performance, from April 30 of last year. It's fascinating to see the bandmembers' different approaches to the material. With Graham Lewis's voice nearly shot (sadly), he's taking fewer lead vocal turns than ever before, leaving Colin Newman to act even more as a frontman. Newman plays up the role, capering up and down and moving about more than anyone else in the band. He's looking rather professorial in his glasses, while Lewis seems bulked up, and still looks as if he could knock over cinderblock walls merely by glaring at them. I wasn't certain that wasn't a Bruce Gilbert cardboard cutout over on stage left...until I realized his hands were, in fact, moving! And then there's drummer Robert Gotobed, or Grey as he's now known, whose head looks like one of those da Vinci sketches (as seen in the album cover photo at the "being sold" link above) and who does an extremely impressive imitation of a drillpress, especially for a man in his mid- to late fifties. In fact, all members are positively inspiring in their energy and intensity. There are very few examples of successful rock artists in their fifties and older who have not blanded out, turned to country or blues, etc.

Musically, while there's no let-up in intensity from the earlier work of Wire mk. 3 (in fact, if anything the version of "Surgeon's Girl" here seems faster than Wire mk. 1's original), there's also very little change. If the rumors are true and Bruce Gilbert has left the band, it may be because this version of Wire, in marked contrast to the first two, hasn't seemed to progress from its starting point. That's not really a complaint, from me - but if your conception of "Wire" is a band that does not stand still (except literally, if you're Gilbert), then I can understand a degree of disappointment.

The DVD also features four tracks not represented on the CD (including this version of "Comet"), from an installation by Es Devlin for the band's Flag: Burning show recorded in April 2003. This is filmed as one static shot, with each bandmember behind a scrim on which is sometimes projected extreme closeups (Lewis's eye, Grey's nose, Newman's mouth, Gilbert's eye) and behind which additional film or video is projected. I think you would have had to have been there...but the music is, again, bracingly done.

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