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Behind the Curtain

Sometimes it's easy to spot an album that should be labelled 'for collectors only'. Behind the Curtain is one such album; it's a 31-track monster of a release that documents Wire's 'behind the scenes' activities, collecting demo takes from the band's first three albums and some live material.

In some ways, Behind the Curtain is quite similar to The Peel Sessions and offers the listener the opportunity to hear Wire without Mike Thorne's sometimes heavy-handed production. However, whereas the selection on the Peel album often improved on the eventual de-facto album versions, most of these are notably inferior. This is particularly apparent on the 154 demos that simply sound like weak versions of the album takes.

Almost every release has its shining light though, and this one has Underwater Experiences. This atmospheric combination of bubbly bass, quiet vocals and occasional guitar, builds to a thunderous finale. For some reason it never made it past demo stage—the band was unable to recreate it in a way it was happy with. Several other unreleased tracks are also present here, but most are fairly short punky pop songs such as Stepping off too Quick that are fun, if unremarkable, or terrible live tracks.

Barring the six turgid live takes, there are only seven tracks that can't be found elsewhere, and of these only Underwater Experiences really holds its worth. For anyone desperate to hear something close to Wire's live '70s sound, or really interested in what these tracks sounded like before Mike Thorne produced all over them, this may be worth a listen. The more casual fan that already owns the three EMI albums will probably be wasting their time and money.

Craig Grannell (1998)

Cover artwork