Provisionally Entitled the Singing Fish/Not to/CN1
Provisionally Entitled the Singing Fish was originally released in 1981 and marked a departure from Newman's previous experience in bands, as he wrote all the tracks and played all the instruments. It is completely different from his earlier work and not in the slightest a pop record. Cinematic, but also slightly unfocussed, the thirteen tracks (Fish One, Fish Two, Fish Three, etc) are generally listenable and sometimes impressive, but can sometimes wander along without going anywhere. Quite a range of instrumentation is covered and most people will find something they enjoy.
Not to sees a return to the band format. Without Mike Thorne's input the sound is much sparser allowing each of the elements to thrive: repetitive guitar loops mix with Gillham's odd basslines and Colin's pleasant—if far too heavily reverberated—vocals. It also gives one an insight as to how Wire might have sounded in the early '80s had they never split. Many of the tracks are reinterpretations of tracks Wire had been playing in 1980 including Safe, We Meet Under Tables and the fantastic You, Me and Happy. An odd cover of Blue Jay Way (The Beatles) rounds off a very good selection. The simple style works well and although the content is rarely challenging or revolutionary it stands true as an excellent release all the same.
The first 3000 copies of this CD were supplied with a six-track companion, CN1. This contained four unreleased pieces, along with the contents of the We Means, We Starts single. Nigh-on impossible to get hold of now, it's well worth picking up if you see it, although not just for curiosity or completism value. We Means, We Starts is a typically over-produced Newman track of the era, but up there with most of the best of the de-facto Not to album. The infectious No Doubt is one of the finest tracks of the '80s Newman output—basically a remixed Fish One with a relentless, but engrossing vocal overlaid. Another Fish remix, HCTFR (Here Come The Fleeing Rabbits) provides another gem, as does the angular, Wire/A-Z hybrid, The Grace You Knew, all combining to make it rather a shame that all copies of the reissue weren't double CDs.
Craig Grannell (March, 2001)