The punk scene in the late 70’s early 80’s spawned lot of great bands (the Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Damned, etc) but not a lot of necessarily great musicians. This was a style based on speed, on energy, on attitude but lots of the time these bands were lacking in technical precision and artistry. The movement attempted to break away from the bloated, pompous prog rock that was made so popular by English bands like Yes and Rush.
Wire is a band that formed during that era and are usually associated with the punk movement but maybe undeservedly so. Listening to the Wire albums I would maybe call their debut, Pink Flag, a punk record but that be stretching it. The follow up, Chairs Missing, contained much more diverse textures and song structure and producer Mike Thorne even added synths into the mix. So, even when Chairs Missing was released in ’78, the height of the punk scene, they were already moving on stylistically.
Why did they never become platinum sellers? I don’t know. Maybe they just never found their niche. Maybe the punk brand they carried caused critics to be dismissive as the late 80’s approached and new wave began to take over. Whatever reason it was undeserved. Very few bands of their generation are still together, let alone making relevant music. They released their twelfth studio album, Red Barked Tree, in December.
A good gauge of impact a band has had is by seeing how they are viewed by other bands. Although they always had modest record sales their fans are a who’s who of great alternative acts. There songs have been covered by R.E.M, My Bloody Valentine, and Fischerspooner. Their fans include Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices and hardcore punk fixtures Ian MacKaye and Henry Rollins. Maybe someday they will get their due but until then they will continue to inspire the newest generation of rock stars.