Wire has never been a band to take the easy option. Whenever the simplicity of a straightforward route appears, Wire decides to turn the corner and heads in the opposite direction. It is due to this working practice that It's Beginning to and Back Again actually appeared. Wire's live sound was always somewhat different to the recorded output and after the first two Mute albums offered glimpses of this, most notably in the delicious version of Drill on A Bell is a Cup, fans were clamouring for a full set to be released. Instead of cleaning up live tapes for release, Wire took them into the studio and started from scratch, overdubbing new guitar, vocal, and keyboard parts. Even crowd noise has been removed. Only whatever the band deemed interesting, along with most of Gotobed's drum tracks, remains from the original gigs.
What we end up with are alternate versions of eleven live takes, half from The Ideal Copy and A Bell is a Cup until it is Struck and half previously unreleased material.
It has to be said, this is a varied bag. The best of the bunch is the entrancing German Shepherds, a fairly melodic piece that offers some harrowing micro-narratives: 'the bird lay bleeding/I couldn't break it's neck'. The much improved Finest Drops also satisfies—no longer quashed by over slick production—as does the quasi-rap Illuminated, which offers a glimpse of what was to come from the band in future releases. The Offer and catchy Eardrum Buzz are reasonable, as is the harsh version of Public Place, but the included take of In Vivo is hampered by an appalling mix.
Wire's live sound was very different during this era as the band grappled with its songs devoid of the technology that was responsible for much of them. Instead of reproducing what was on the album, new pieces were created—some fairly similar to the originals, some almost unrecognisable. What we have here is this method once removed: versions of versions of songs, and while this release is often successful, it is also patchy.
Craig Grannell (1998)