Review Revue: Wire – A Bell Is a Cup… Until It Is Struck

I think I have found the band with the most album-cover commentary overall, and it is Wire! For starters, we have 16 albums by them (and that’s just the vinyl!). They all have at least a few comments — and a few are full-on Deep Six-style blowouts — but the volume and intensity of comments on A Bell Is a Cup… Until It Is Struck stuck out to me, so I pulled it out to make it part of Review Revue history. It’s really fascinating, 20 years later (with saying things like “Arguably Wire’s best album and certainly its most accessible, A Bell Is a Cup… Until It Is Struck is a work of modern rock genius”), to see how negatively some Wire fans felt about it at the time.

“Wire is now a singles band. The last LP left me undecided. This one makes it clear. Boring. Dead boring. This goes nowhere at all. 1.2 is a rewrite of ‘Ambitious.’ 2.3 is a rewrite of ‘Cheeking tongues.’ The rest are like rewrites of each other. The lyrics are utter nonsense. Only 1.5 manages any sort of tension. Virtually no sign of Lewis. Thank god I heard it prior to purchase, or I would have been dead pissed. They should take a nod from the Pogues and call this ‘If I should fall from grace with god.'”

“And this guy wants to be M.D.? Woah Nellie!”

“God damn ‘em.”

“Crap! Shit!”

“Nobody can say this is like Neil Young’s Trans and that you’ll grow to like it. I would expect any one at KCMU to approach this disc with a sense of perspective and be prepared to honestly say a shovel is a shovel. On the Ideal Copy I said that Wire is the Boston of alternative music… let me add to that Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull and announce the introduction of 1977’s first true dinosaur. Is there any band from 1977 left that inspires… I think so but I’m prejudiced. M at best.”

“‘A man is known by his enemies.’ — Plato”

“Sometimes a shovel isn’t a shovel. What the hey do ya think Magritte was doing?”

“The bottom line however is that there’s stuff in M better than this, though this is not completely bad.”


“So Shawn, is a bell a shovel?”

“Deep Six Pt. 2. Hmmm?”

[As if you needed any more evidence of how contentious this debate got, the following comment is actually stuck over someone else’s comment. I’m afraid without some sort of infrared or x-ray technology, we’ll never know what the dissed commenter had to say.]

“I bought this and have listened to it at home about 9 million times. This is pop music gone all the way around and through the back door. Not only devastatingly intelligent, but probably the best thing they’ve done since Snakedrill. My humble apologies, Colin. You’ve done it again. How dumb of me.”

“Et tu, Art?”

“You’re confusing ‘em with the Pink Dots, Art.”

“I think as an LP this is cohesive and very listenable. The songs are well produced and quite lovely. I like this very much, indeed.”

“If MTV plays this kudos to them…”

“Hey, hey, easy goes it guys — give it a chance — there ain’t no sluffin’ going on here. Good stuff throughout!”

“Now I can understand being sick of highly ‘studioized’ recordings. I can also understand having lost interest in Wire after 15y . . . I mean, gosh, 7 years and no new music? I almost think this a different band.
What are you comparing this against? The Pogues? Hey they’re groovy but it’s apples and oranges. The Ideal Copy? While there is nothing as gnarly as ‘Feed Me,” this LP has atmosphere, depth, & with the aforementioned exception uniformly superior material & production. Snakedrill? Well, I actually swell with excitement at the memory of hearing that the first time I did. (Honest!) This LP simply makes me blissed! I knew you guys were poseur Wire fans all along! (Not you Art). You see, these guys aren’t abrasive, heavy, raw or menacing anymore. That was years ago! With this LP, they are perfecting a new sound. If you don’t like that sound, that’s cool! Heck, I don’t care for R.D., I mean K.D. Lang or Controlled Bleeding but I respect the fact that they turn people on even it’s not my cup o’ java. Just don’t ‘dis’ what you don’t really know. Or care to.”

“I don’t think it’s that bad of a record, although clearly there are some rather dull & redundant songs on here (notably 1.1, 1.2 & 1.4). As a produced & textured LP it works best in earphones for otherwise its superficial ‘lack of bite’ begins to annoy. Side 2 I find nice in that fashion, though not ‘blissed.’ Curious how this debate is being portrayed as one between the ‘Progressives’ vs. ‘the Poseurs’ (shades of Rush?). For that I’ll have to blame the over-sensitive reaction of our bellied Democrat, that cud-eating Beatnik who stumbles over his tongue as miuch as his shoelaces. (Hee, hee, hee.)”

“‘Metroland’ is a shopping mall outside of Teaneck, NY (not really).”

“Hey, I made that crack first.”

“You’re all a bunch of childish assholes.

“Well DUH!”

“My asshole is not childish.”

“Don’t worry Dave, I’m not moving it for you – I still don’t agree with you, however, Colin shall suffice.”

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One Comment

  1. Posted March 10, 2016 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    I was younger then and now regret my comments about this album and referring to Wire as “the Boston of alternative music” on The Ideal Copy. I was utterly wrong.

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