09 November 2017 (released)
09 November 2017
Wire frontman Colin Newman has taken a swipe at alleged ageism in the music industry.
The post-punk legend said his band — which originally formed in 1976 — has had to work harder for success in recent years because people expect them "not to be any good".
Wire's 16th studio album Silver/Lead — their fourth since 2013 — was released earlier this year and the band bring their latest UK tour to an end in Oxford on Thursday night.
"Believe me ageism is a reality," said Newman, 63.
"Like women, gay people — whoever — you've got to prove twice as hard that you can do it. If Silver/Lead had been made by a bunch of twentysomethings it probably would've been winning the Mercury Prize or God knows what.
"But the fact that we're an older band — even though it's had a really good critical reception, like the last three or four albums especially — it's still kind of like in a way people are surprised.
"It's breaking a cardinal rule. You're not supposed to be any good by the time you've got to a certain age, but that doesn't really apply to painters, or choreographers, or people who write theatre.
"Why should it only apply to music? Is pop music so precious that it can only be done by people in their teens and twenties?"
Newman said the thriving interest in the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band showed that pop deserved to be considered as advanced culture.
"We've never been in this situation culturally where pop music has enjoyed such a long present moment in terms of relevance," the Brighton-based songsmith declared.
"It's unthinkable if I was to go back to when I was in my teens that you would be listening to any music that was more than three or four years old — the very concept was preposterous.
"To have been in 1966 and listening to music that was 50 years old — that was music from 1916 for God's sake. I mean, I thought music from the early '60s was depressing.
"I think ultimately pop music has become a shared culture. If you listen to interviews with The Beatles or whoever back in the day they would talk about it maybe going on for another couple of years when asked how long they expected it to last.
"At that time they planned to maybe go on and write for other people or something like that. Nobody had any expectation that it would last.
"The most shocking thing recently for me was one of those stupid Facebook things when they ask you what your musical age is.
"In spite of not knowing who half of the contemporary artists on the list were, and picking Sgt Pepper's as my favourite record, I managed to get a musical age of 23 or something.
"I don't know what it means but it seems very odd to me. I know people who are in their teens whose favourite music is from the '60s and it's not unusual or weird in any way.
"I think you can point the finger fairly firmly at the Rolling Stones for having taken a decision at a point in history that they'd be better off financially playing a greatest hits package on tour and not caring too much about their new album.
"That might have been to do with the internal dynamic of the band, I don't know — but that sort of set a template.
Regarded as one of rock's most experimental purveyors, the London outfit recorded seminal albums Pink Flag, Chairs Missing — including the sublime single Outdoor Miner — and 154 as late-'70s Harvest labelmates of Pink Floyd.
An influence on Blur and Franz Ferdinand, Wire re-emerged in the mid-'80s, dropping six LPs in five years for indie darlings Mute Records — then vanished again. Since 2003 they've self-released another seven albums up to this year's Silver/Lead.
"If we'd have had a hit in the '70s I don't think we could've operated the way we do now," says Newman, who records as Githead with his wife Malka Spigel.
"We don't want to be completely dismissive of our past — that'd be stupid — but we don't want to live there.
"Bands on the circuit who just play their top tunes from decades past must feel a level of frustration. Of course they embrace it and say it's what the public want to hear, but that really doesn't play into the Wire way of thinking.
"Wire consider don't consider themselves to be entertainers so it would be almost impossible for Wire to exist in that mode.
"It's not like we've been super-radical in advancing the cause of not doing the nostalgia thing. We don't need to be, we know people would vote with their feet if we played just old tunes — they'd lose interest."
PIC CAPTION Wire: from left, Matthew Simms, Robert Grey, Graham Lewis and Colin Newman.