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WIRED FOR FEROCITY : * * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty :

June 21, 1987|KRISTINE McKENNA

* * * * "THE IDEAL COPY." Wire. Enigma. Debuting in 1978 with "Pink Flag," one of the landmark LPs of the first wave of British punk, Wire blueprinted a style that sounds as sharp and uncompromising today as it did in the early days of blue hair.

Art rockers--that is, artists using music as a medium--as opposed to human jukeboxes aspiring to pop stardom, Wire creates music decidedly lacking in the cliche ingredients--populist propaganda, pat solutions, romantic fantasy--that infect most popular music, and consequently they'll probably never be more than a cult band. But what a great band they are!

Like the Fall and the defunct Magazine, Wire makes ferociously hard industrial pop that never loses its head in the face of the big beat. Flushed with feverish neurasthenia, the music is informed with an intelligence so wound up and overbred that it's evolved to a perverse state where tenderness and cruelty coexist in exquisite balance.

There's something clinical and not quite human about their aural collages, most of which conduct disinterested inquiries into sensory phenomena and random occurrence. Combining chilling vignettes, oblique descriptions and glimpses of oblivion, Wire's music takes us into the same fragmented reality where Kafka hung his hat.

The basic components of the reunited foursome's music are all present and accounted for in its first LP in six years: You can't make heads or tails of the lyrics, demonic riffs and jerky rhythms abound, and the record leaves you feeling curiously anxious and excited. Refusing to grant the listener the usual pop music payoff, "The Ideal Copy" doesn't make you want to dance or fall in love; it makes you want to lock yourself away in a room somewhere and ponder the fate of mankind for a long time. Shimmering with cold, glacial beauty, this music is disturbing in all the right ways.

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