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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this CD!!, 14 Dec 1999
This review is from: 154 (Audio CD)
My advice is simple......If you do nothing else, buy this CD. Then go and buy every other Wire recording you can find. This is Newman and Lewis pushing the edge of their vocal best. This is Wire at its musical triumph. With 154 we are light years from the harsh, raw edge of Pink Flag and we, the listeners, are exposed to far more depth than the quite excellent Chairs Missing. This album is just simply brilliant.
It does not seem possible that twenty years have passed since the release of this, the last of the best of the Wire LP's, and yet listening it at the end of the 20th Century this album is surely as powerful as it was when first released. Right from the start Wire never fitted any sort of NME/MM pigeonhole and for the span of time covering their first three LP releases the diverse musical styles of Newman/Gilbert/Gotobed/Lewis defied any kind of categorisation. Take 154: how can you hope to define an album which opens with three tracks as musically varied as "I should have known better", "2 people in a room", The 15th"? You can't. Don't try. At times the listener is taken the way of Colin Newman ("Single KO", "On returning") whose harder lyrics, harsher vocal style contrasts with the softer, warmer voice of Graham Lewis ("A touching display", "Blessed state") (Go and find the post-split albums "A to Z" by Colin Newman and "Barge Calm" by Lewis/Gilbert to find out where this separation of styles eventually leads you).
Musically too, the sound of Wire reaches its zenith with this album. There is no doubt that the development of the style clearly evident with tracks such as "Pink Flag" and "Strange" on the first album, and "Practice makes perfect" and "Mercy" from the second, all finally culminate in this album and particularly in the tracks "A touching display" and "Indirect enquiries". Fans of "Outdoor miner" will see obvious parallels with "Map ref..." but the raw sound contained within "12 XU" and (my favourite Wire track of all time) "Sand in my joints" is sadly missing with the complete abandonment of that strident guitar sound. This album was released at the height of the synthesizer revolution so we can surely forgive the guys their foray into experimentation with the possibilities that the synth sound provided.
The addition of five extra bonus tracks do little to add to past glory except explain why in later manifestations Wire themselves seemed to be less than convinced about their own musical progression but you can just about convince yourself that echoes of brilliance remain in the instrumental "Song" and the track "Go ahead"
Just listen to 154 and be amazed. Once is never enough. Listen three or four times and the music of Wire will be with you for a lifetime.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of Harvest-era Wire/post-punk masterpiece..., 15 Jan 2006
By 
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: 154 (Remaster 2006) (Audio CD)
The philosophy of 1978's 'I am the Fly' which dismissed punk and cast Wire as punk-spirited outsiders in a blurred French Film of their own was carried on into the great 'Chairs Missing' LP. Late 1978 saw the band shift again, the effect of touring and travel excerting an influence over the material - which came in various origins - Lewis writing on his own, Gilbert writing on his own, Newman writing on his own...and the odd collaboration between members (the e.p. included with this album and on later reissues is effectively solo-work from each member).The band seem at odds with each other at odds with the world - so it was unsurprising they would disintegrate following the 'Document + Eyewitness' performance, resurfacing as a different (but same spirited) Wire on Mute-records in the mid-1980s. '154' was the conclusion of their years on a major label and another obligatory purchase.
'154' remains for me their most complete LP, as great as many albums of this era - 'Unknown Pleasures', 'Metal Box', 'Cut', 'Secondhand Daylight','Entertainment!','Fear of Music', 'Dub Housing', 'The Only Fun in Town', 'The Scream' etc. Lewis' opener 'I Should Have Known Better' is a different kind of angular pop, a building melancholy reflected in the manic-guitars towards its climax. & it even uses the word 'albeit'! There are kind of pop songs here - 'The 15th' still sounds terminally sublime and was later covered by proto-Scissor-Sisters outfit Fischerspooner (essentially Sigue Sigue Sputnik with a smaller budget and a bit more taste) while 'Map Ref 41 N 93 W' (title!) is essentially catchy - setting the precedent for things like 'Eardrum Buzz' and 'Not Me'. Sadly it never became a hit when the record label opted to put their money behind reductive Japan-tribute outfit Duran Duran!
There's an abiding melancholy here - B.C. Gilbert's 'Blessed State' an anti-National Anthem that always sounds pertinent with its refrain "oh what a perfect, what a well-made world." 'Two People in a Room' shows the angry punk thing wasn't completely erased - while 'A Mutal Friend' explores more oblique territories. 'The Other Window' is the missing link between Eno and hip-hop, opening as an ambient-guitar dirge with vocals from Gilbert, oblique chatter that becomes something else when an electro-beat kicks in! Newman's 'On Returning' is poppier, slight-pop not far from Talking Heads and some of the material found on his solo LP 'A/Z'. My two favourite tracks remain closer '40 Versions' which is Gilbert's guitar-dominated ode to entropic options ('total eclipse and Niagra falls'!) - the guitar itself is brilliant and could be cited as the birth of Interpol's career! Lyrically it feels somewhat sci-fi, reflected in the artwork the albums Wire released on Harvest and the feel of '154.' The epic 'A Touching Display' remains the other favourite, even longer than 1978's 'Mercy', Lewis' offers something that lyrically recalls (predicts to be accurate) Julian Cope's bombed-out state ('Wilder' to 'Fried') with music that sounds like Young Marble Giants playing Siouxsie & the Banshees. I love the way the vocals become more passionate, and then nothing - words not required anymore and the band drift off into drones and avant-solos. Math-rock could be argued to have stemmed from here, as well as things like Theoretical Girls and Slint then!
'154' is a great album, the Harvest-trio is deservedly reissued - though I think the later/contemporary Wire-product should be celebrated, as well as material on Newman's Swim Label and various members releases as Colin Newman, He Said, A.C. Marias, and Wir. Highlight reissues of 2006 and records that may not have made much sense at the time, but more than work now.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of Harvest-era & post-punk masterpiece, 13 Feb 2006
By 
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: 154 (Audio CD)
The philosophy of 1978's 'I am the Fly' which dismissed punk and cast Wire as punk-spirited outsiders in a blurred French Film of their own was carried on into the great 'Chairs Missing' LP. Late 1978 saw the band shift again, the effect of touring and travel excerting an influence over the material - which came in various origins - Lewis writing on his own, Gilbert writing on his own, Newman writing on his own...and the odd collaboration between members (the e.p. included with this album and on later reissues is effectively solo-work from each member).The band seem at odds with each other at odds with the world - so it was unsurprising they would disintegrate following the 'Document + Eyewitness' performance, resurfacing as a different (but same spirited) Wire on Mute-records in the mid-1980s. '154' was the conclusion of their years on a major label and another obligatory purchase.
'154' remains for me their most complete LP, as great as many albums of this era - 'Unknown Pleasures', 'Metal Box', 'Cut', 'Secondhand Daylight','Entertainment!','Fear of Music', 'Dub Housing', 'The Only Fun in Town', 'The Scream' etc. Lewis' opener 'I Should Have Known Better' is a different kind of angular pop, a building melancholy reflected in the manic-guitars towards its climax. & it even uses the word 'albeit'! There are kind of pop songs here - 'The 15th' still sounds terminally sublime and was later covered by proto-Scissor-Sisters outfit Fischerspooner (essentially Sigue Sigue Sputnik with a smaller budget and a bit more taste) while 'Map Ref 41 N 93 W' (title!) is essentially catchy - setting the precedent for things like 'Eardrum Buzz' and 'Not Me'. Sadly it never became a hit when the record label opted to put their money behind reductive Japan-tribute outfit Duran Duran!
There's an abiding melancholy here - B.C. Gilbert's 'Blessed State' an anti-National Anthem that always sounds pertinent with its refrain "oh what a perfect, what a well-made world." 'Two People in a Room' shows the angry punk thing wasn't completely erased - while 'A Mutal Friend' explores more oblique territories. 'The Other Window' is the missing link between Eno and hip-hop, opening as an ambient-guitar dirge with vocals from Gilbert, oblique chatter that becomes something else when an electro-beat kicks in! Newman's 'On Returning' is poppier, slight-pop not far from Talking Heads and some of the material found on his solo LP 'A/Z'. My two favourite tracks remain closer '40 Versions' which is Gilbert's guitar-dominated ode to entropic options ('total eclipse and Niagra falls'!) - the guitar itself is brilliant and could be cited as the birth of Interpol's career! Lyrically it feels somewhat sci-fi, reflected in the artwork the albums Wire released on Harvest and the feel of '154.' The epic 'A Touching Display' remains the other favourite, even longer than 1978's 'Mercy', Lewis' offers something that lyrically recalls (predicts to be accurate) Julian Cope's bombed-out state ('Wilder' to 'Fried') with music that sounds like Young Marble Giants playing Siouxsie & the Banshees. I love the way the vocals become more passionate, and then nothing - words not required anymore and the band drift off into drones and avant-solos. Math-rock could be argued to have stemmed from here, as well as things like Theoretical Girls and Slint then!
'154' is a great album, the Harvest-trio is deservedly reissued - though I think the later/contemporary Wire-product should be celebrated, as well as material on Newman's Swim Label and various members releases as Colin Newman, He Said, A.C. Marias, and Wir. Highlight reissues of 2006 and records that may not have made much sense at the time, but more than work now.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The words below are insufficient but I had to write something, 17 July 2014
This review is from: 154 (Audio CD)
1977 - Pink Flag. Punky as befitted the times, but still with occasional strangeness ("Strange", "Reuters", "Pink Flag" and one or two others). A band that were a definite synthesis of their influences but who had something else to say, though they didn't know what it was at the time.
1978 - Chairs Missing. Wire let their expression loose more than a little. Still the same angular, punk songs to a limited extent, but they were post-punk, experimenting as much as they could, and creating genuine, long-lasting, timeless ART while most of the establishment "punk" groups were still spitting on their audiences and churning out lowest common denominator 3-chord s***e for the music industry mass market.
1979 - 154. Event Horizon. Nothing like this had been done before. It was almost as if some higher being had said "OK, here you are, a musical gift from the Gods". Their progress in such a short time was nothing less than supernatural. There was no point releasing another album for many years (and they didn't), such was the impact of this album. OK, it sold about 30 copies, but they said the same thing about the VU. I saw Wire a couple of times a few years ago, and I was dumbstruck. Wish I'd seen them in their pomp, but they are SUCH an important band to me that I still viewed it as a privilege. Check out the Rockpalast footage on YouTube, it's primitive but a fantastic document of Wire playing these songs live. I wish I'd been in this band, just to get the feeling they must have had when they recorded this masterpiece.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless brilliance, 23 Jan 2006
By 
John A. Atkins "jaatkins" (Lancaster) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 154 (Audio CD)
With its nondescript title and mundane cover it is perhaps easy for anyone to overlook "154". Quite simply this record is the absolute pinnacle of the post-punk era, and at the time this was miles ahead of Joy Division or The Cure or the Banshees, and perhaps rivalled only by Magazine. By turns cold, angular, funny, manic and energetic, "154" is bristling with stunning oblique lyrics and unforgettable melodies - yes, for all their art-school obscurantisms, Wire produced perfect pop songs. What lessons Radiohead and Bloc Party could learn from this...
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Modern Classic, 29 Dec 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: 154 (Audio CD)
This is the best LP Wire ever made, and Wire are one of the most important British bands of the last 25 years...Therefore, If you are remotely interested in the history of popular music this is required listening. Its gritty, its angular, its violent and loud...but its also melodic and thrilling. Its not just a pop record, its a great work of 20th Century art. In terms of punk/new wave its less written about, but just as essential as Never Mind the Bollcocks or Closer. Don't take my word for it, just buy the bloody thing!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic British Album, 25 Aug 2005
This review is from: 154 (Audio CD)
This is Wires most accomplished record and therefore the one that anyone new to the band should think about first. In fact: just buy it - This album stands alongside the likes of Closer and The Holy Bible as one of the 20th centurys great cult rock records.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Replace the old with the new., 13 Jun 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: 154 (Audio CD)
Played my old vinyl copy so many times it wore out. Greatest record I've ever heard. At least I've played it more than anything else. So varied but so cohesive, this album still sounds as fresh as the first time I heard it. The best in existential soured relationship analysis to the nature of the universe all summed up in lyrics delivered with total conviction, then the music... impossible to relate the effect it's had on me. Not even digital remastering can spoil the sound like it did to Pink Flag. Wire are now playing together again and are as impressive as ever. I doubt anyone will ever match what these four can do with 2 guitars, bass and drums. Add producer Mike Thorne's synths and keyboards and what they made was perhaps the most fascinating art of the 20th century.....
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ahead of its time, 15 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: 154 (Audio CD)
I think this album was ahead of its time, and still is! So no problem in giving it five stars.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My God, they're so gifted!, 27 Mar 2006
This review is from: 154 (Audio CD)
1979 delivered three essential albums for me: PiL's Metal Box, Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures and 154, Wire's third studio LP (so-called because they had played 154 gigs by that time). Songs are generally longer than on the debut "Pink Flag", and the overall intensity and creepiness is cranked up by some serious excursions into weird sounds. Much of this must be due to producer Mike Thorne, who adds haunting synth and keyboard sounds that absolutely refuse to date and sound as mysterious today as the did then. This is best typified on "the Other Window", Lewis intoning a very English experience to being on a foreign train, culminating in seeing a dying horse trapped in a barbed wire fence. "he turned away/what could he do?/the other window had a...nicer view". Elsewhere, there's the usual Wire knack for conjuring a chiming, memorable pop-song such as the "15th", sounding like a malevolent Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. All very much in the manner of those other cerebral pop legends, Brian Eno & Howard Devoto. And "Two People in a Room" is one of the heaviest punk numbers they wrote.
The version of 154 I have on CD also has 5 extra tracks; four are solo pieces originally included on a bonus 45 that came with the vinyl album, such as "Lets Panic Later" and "Small Electric Piece". Already, signs were brewing that the four could not simply exist as Wire for long but had to expand into extracurricular projects or solo careers. The fifth is "Go ahead", a 15 min piece they recorded for the John Peel Show. Look out for this version.
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154 [VINYL]
154 [VINYL] by Wire (Vinyl - 2006)
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