No sooner has Wire announced plans to get back together than EMI decides to reissue its old compilation of tracks from Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154. One has to admire the fact that a label is attempting to cash-in on such a niche band, but also wonder just what EMI is thinking, as this collection makes some odd decisions with its selection.
On Returning whisks you through the sonic 'delights' of Pink Flag, including some punky tracks impressive for their brevity, if little else, and some rather more considered numbers like perennial Elastica favourite Three Girl Rhumba and the guttural Strange. It continues with a rather more impressive selection from Chairs Missing and 154 and includes the hilarious Practice Makes Perfect, the noisy I am the Fly, On Returning (the ultimate travel song) and the utterly sublime Blessed State. Inexplicably, the best pop song Wire ever wrote, Map Ref, is absent, as is the haunting Mercy.
Rather like Mute Record's collection of Wire '80s tracks, there's nothing particularly wrong with this release—it contains some of Wire's best material from its early period—but bar making EMI a bit of cash I can't really see the point in its existence. The fact that a few essential cuts didn't make this album puts a question mark over its importance, even for a Wire 'novice'. If you really want to hear what Wire was like in the '70s, you may as well pick up Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154, as they're all available at mid-price anyway.
Craig Grannell (March, 2000)