12 Times You
Wire's final release of 2000 is also the band's first single since 1997's Vien (and its first as a four-piece entity since the US-only Life in the Manscape, back in 1990).
The vinyl-only item offers two distinctly different versions of Wire's seminal punk anthem, 12XU, both based on audio from the band's Garage residency in May 2000, and one almost moshed beyond recognition. 12 Times You is the more straightforward of the pair, treading the grey area between 'live' and 'sequenced' in fine style, probably producing the definitive 'in your face' version of the track. The flip-side, XU Version, is an amusing lo-fi techno mix—like a minimal g-man'd version of Wire. In some ways it's actually the better piece, being very quirky and therefore very 'Wire'.
Wir's final recorded output occurred in 1993 with two tracks for ORF, Vienna. The First Letter was a live track on the tour of the same name but would have been out of place on the album. It starts with various background murmurings and synth rumblings before a relentless beat kicks in, backing an angry Newman vocal about wartime atrocity: 'There's nothing in the market, the embargo's enforced/Except if you're shipping guns of course'. Sexy and Rich is a more mellow affair with a cynical text about sex and money. It's not bad, although I couldn't help thinking of Robert Palmer et al when listening to it. Graham Lewis resurrected the piece and improved it beyond measure on the He Said Omala Catch Supposes album.
So and Slow it Grows (Wir)
The First Letter had a couple of telling problems: a lack of percussive definition, and a rather flat mix. So the opportunity to hear a couple of tracks remixed with a new one thrown in for good measure seemed a pretty good thing. The single mix of So and Slow it Grows is more catchy than the de-facto album version, swapping the awkward drum patterns for a straight dance beat. The Orb's mix mellows the piece further, adding twangy guitar riffs and a shuffly beat.
Nice From Here is techno-pop paint by numbers—John Foxx for the '90s, but LFO's remix of Take It is the finest Wir piece: period. The album take is put to the back of the mix and a new version of New York City overlaid, the narrative seemingly telling the story of being attacked in the big city. Musically, this is great—the samples of Strange are replaced by sublime synth washes and burbling electronics, all brought together by a solid beat.
Life in the Manscape
Inexplicably a USA-only release, Life in the Manscape offers three versions of Manscape and two other electronica-oriented pieces.
Along with the album version of Manscape we also have 7" and 12" mixes, although it was never released in those forms. The former is pretty similar to the album version, although some lyrics have been altered. The 12" mix is rather different: almost KLF-meets-Wire. Beginning with 'Russian computer game music' it then adds fragmented sections of the original along with various 'found' political speeches.
The final two tracks later showed up on WMO's Coatings compilation, namely Gravity Workshop and Who has Nine. The first is a subtle affair, despite the relentless beat, with an excellent Lewis vocal. The later is ordinary electo-pop, which sounds a little dated now. Having said that, this is still worth grabbing if you see it somewhere, not least due to the disc's increasing ratiry.
Silk Skin Paws
Packaged in a unique, if rather awkward filofax sleeve, Silk Skin Paws offers four tracks. Three of these are remixes from Wire's previous two albums: Silk Skin Paws seems little different to the album version but Come Back in Two Halves is a vast improvement—a jaunty, upbeat remake of the slightly dull original. Ambitious is reduced in physical presence but increased in complexity and smoothness. One suspects this is more Colin's mix than the album version (in fact, Colin takes the lead vocal here). It all ends up sounding a little wishy-washy but still better than the Ideal Copy take. The final piece is German Shepherds, along the same musical lines but with some harrowing stories to tell, 'The bird lay bleeding, I couldn't break it's neck/I saw three dogs f*cking, there was a man on the end'. Food for thought indeed.
Although it's one of Wire's best '80s pieces, Kidney Bingos is a fairly sedate affair apart from its biting lyrics so it's good to see a different side of Wire in the other two tracks on this disc. The bhangra-tinged Pieta turns a bar into a holy shrine, telling the intriguing story of a 'doubting Thomas'. The third track is what must be the definitive version of Drill: an outstanding live cut from a 1987 London gig that pushes the track beyond anything since attempted with it.