After Wire split in two after parting company with EMI in 1980, Colin Newman took with him drummer Robert Gotobed and producer Mike Thorne to follow his pop-oriented leanings. The result was A-Z.
& Jury and Inventory seem like cleaned up Wire tracks (in fact the latter was used in the final Wire tours of 1979/80) and are impressive, even if the vocals are often alarmist in delivery. Other tracks sometimes sound like Gary Numan having a bit of a bad day, particularly Order in Order and the noisy and quite irritating B, whose sole redeeming feature is a chaotic promo video that you obviously cannot see via the CD. The more thoughtful pieces are far better. Alone is both atmospheric and musically impressive. Image is another stand-out track—strumming guitars and whispery vocals glide over warm keyboard textures before giving way to a few bars of brash, psychedelically tinged 'pop'.
A-Z continually shifts between utterly sublime and vaguely irritating. The album is full of energy, but it sounds somewhat over-dramatic and unsophisticated compared to the late '70s Wire albums and Newman's later work. Thorne's production ensures that keyboards often drown out everything else thereby offering a somewhat one-dimensional sound. Had all of the tracks been as satisfying as Alone or Image then this would fare much better.
The CD reissue from 1988 adds a further five tracks, the best of which is Alone on Piano, which takes the lead and guitar parts of Alone and arranges them for piano.
Craig Grannell (1998)