Colin Newman

By: Erik Davis
September 16, 2009

Colin Newman — with Wire in 1978
Colin Newman — with Wire in 1978

Now that the radical punch of punk seems no more potent than a daisy in a National Guardsman’s rifle, the artsy-fartsy fundament of its posture has become as evident — and as significant — as its street snarl. The fact that COLIN NEWMAN (born 1954) formed Wire with pals in art school, or that his lyrics are saturated with avant-garde influences, does not undermine punk’s bid for negative authenticity; it is the bid. “Anger is an energy,” sang a post-Pistols John Lydon; for Newman (who, like Mission of Burma’s Roger Miller, sings like he’s thinking and dodging thought at the same time), anger is a gesture: the slice of the cut-up, the quick jab of intelligence itself, “intended to pierce.” Wire’s early records not only mapped and scrambled the zone between punk and post-punk, but between tone-deaf riffage and “atonality”: the burst of skronk in Chairs Missing’s safety-pinned grinder “Sand in My Joints” is a case in point. Newman’s post-Wire work continued this hi-lo tango, juxtaposing scintillating pop hooks and odd formal experiments, like all-instrumental auto-remixes named after fish. Landing, the forthcoming record from Newman’s latest band, Githead, is razorsharp and driving, though it lacks snot.


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