Music saved my life: Wire - Chairs Missing (Harvest; 1978)
Without Chairs Missing, Wire would only be one of the most influential punk bands of all time. Instead, they opted to record a set of songs that reflected their evolving musical tastes and became something even more obscenely enormous. The ferocity of the incredible Pink Flag remains, but the band willflully stretches their sound, filling in spaces with Eno-like atmospherics, polyrhythmic synth noises, and the trademark Colin Newman shout. "Mercy" is the album's crowning apex, guitars breathing fire to a colossal climax while the drums break for a beautifully planned closed hi-hat hit that invites the listener to see if their heart is still beating...but doesn't leave them enough time to do so. It sounds crazy, but it's one of those musical moments that can't be explained, but only felt.
The record's studio magic is especially apparent in "Heartbeat", as the band fades in and out like the man behind the boards is playing with the levels. It's a classic moment of postmodernism, but something that very few musicians -- maybe only Kraftwerk and Steve Reich -- were doing at the time. Even someone like David Byrne or Malcolm Mooney, who played with sonic texture like no one else, must have been inspired by how the band used studio sounds to craft an atmosphere on "Used to Know", where literally the whole song sounds like it's slightly off-time and bubbling on the turntable.
But, of course, a Wire record wouldn't be complete without a series of straight-up rockers, and there are plenty of those to boot. "I Am the Fly" and "Outdoor Miner" are art-punk before the term existed, and evidence that Wire were decades ahead of the game. "Too Late", the album's reflective closer, has Newman shouting "Is it too late to change my mind?" over something -- after a lot of very close listens, I still can't tell if it's a heavily mutated guitar sound or a synth. It doesn't matter -- the sonics are astounding, either for 1978 or now, and proof that a band like Wire will always be respected, recognized and enjoyed.
Wire - Official Site
Wire - "I Am the Fly"