Live at Brudenell Social Club on Tuesday, 28th April 2015
First up, PINS (uppercase) is an all-girl five piece - and yes, I'm aware I wouldn't describe Wire as an "all-male four piece" but this band's gender does make a difference. They all sing, and female voices in three, four and even five part harmony add extra glitter to elevate their sound and vibe out of the ordinary. Tonight they're extra-incongruous as pretty young girls in a room full of ugly old blokes. It must be like playing at Grandad's birthday party.
PINS are impressive. Two very well thought-out guitars mesh together well, the drummer occasionally stands up - show-womanship! - and in true rock tradition there's a bit of attitude up front, the bassist is ice-cool and the keyboard player is the nerdier one with the basin haircut. Perfect. Some good sparky songs, nothing too groundbreaking but consistently entertaining.
In stark contrast, Wire. When I said I was going to this gig, several friends messaged their jealousy - "saw them last year, they were brilliant!" - that sort of thing - and I'm told their new album is good. So expectations are high. I am also well aware of their pedigree and significance as prime movers at the conceptual end of the punk spectrum back in the late 1970s. Wire are cited as an influence on dozens of bands which followed over the next three decades. They were innovative, audacious and startling, rewriting the rules of rock music with some bizarre arrangements, always ready to go off at a tangent, almost always interesting, and above all unpredictable.
I'm sorry to say the Wire I see tonight seems to be the opposite of all that. From the outset it's 4/4 time and a set of straightforward songs which only rarely break into avant garde territory. Here's a band who helped inspire the choppy art-punk of the Gang of Four, and more melodic left-field bands from The Cure to Blur, but tonight the formula is mainly to bludgeon with the sort of monotonic thrash-plus-effects wall-of-sound favoured by the less artful wing of the goth movement. Perhaps some lyrical inspiration could elevate the experience, but the vocals are swamped in the mix. It's po-faced too, with no "hits" and not much "fun". Looking around, the audience is nodding respectfully but few seem genuinely enthused.
So as far as tonight goes, two aptly named bands. PINS; sharp, shiny, to the point. Wire; once made powerful connections, now seemingly strung out.