Released a mere ten months after the punk blaze of Pink Flag, Chairs Missing proved Wire was more than a smart-arse punk band. The abrasive nature of the earlier release is still evident in many of the tracks, but the input of Mike Thorne's keyboard arrangements adds far more depth.
It begins with the jarring, dissonant Practice Makes Perfect containing a bizarre Gilbert text: 'Practice makes perfect, yes I can prove it/Business or pleasure, the more that you do it/Please dress in your best things, this course was unplanned/'Cos you see up in my bedroom I've got Sarah Bernhard's hand'. The alarming Mercy offers yet another classic text: 'Within the institution walls in pastel blue, clinical white, slashed red lipsticked walls... in the raking torchlight with 4 am stubble, a midnight transvestite'.
Sand in my Joints shows that Wire still had a penchant for the fast punk song format, but it, along with Too Late, feels more like a leftover from the older release rather than sitting comfortably amongst the exquisite instrumentation of tracks like Outdoor Miner and the melancholy Heartbeat. One exception is Another the Letter, which at just over a minute long is the shortest piece on the album. However, instead of 70 seconds of guitar thrash, an arpeggio keyboard loop plays throughout. When guitars are allowed to surface, during what might be described as the middle eight, they all fight to be noticed in what seems like three or four overlaid solos—amusing, and musically different.
Chairs Missing is full of energy, wit and good songs. The very simple fact that it doesn't sound too dated over 20 years after its original release is testimony to its longevity. The most recent CD reissue adds three tracks: an extended mix of Outdoor Miner, the punchy A Question of Degree, and the Dome-like noise loops of Former Airline.
Craig Grannell (1998)