Wire: Being Sucked In Again
hat I loved most, or most characteristically, about Wire’s “Ex-Lion Tamer” and by extension Pink Flag as a whole was the manic energy pushing things to the point of incomprehension, all four players engaged in a furious race to see who could make the listener react first. What I love so fiercely about their third album, 154, is something stranger, colder and more remote, almost alien in places. And so what I love about Chairs Missing and by extension “Being Sucked In Again” is something stranded awkwardly between those two purities, a patchworked and wonderful compendium of technique that stretches to cover their most blissful pop music (“Outdoor Miner”, of course), some of the most furious sprints they’d ever run until Sent years later, painfully muted fragments like “Used To” (which came this close to being the subject of this Seconds) and songs that even out-creep 154 (“Practice Makes Perfect”).
But sometimes, all you need (or want) is a single sound. “Being Sucked In Again” was always for me one of the lesser songs on Chairs Missing, as brutally stark as “I Am The Fly” and more menacing for being less explicit (except for a mention of “a dorsal fin [breaking] the water”, the lyrics tell you nothing at all about the situation, if there is one) but less gleefully malicious. Good, to be sure, what passes for filler on Wire’s first three albums generally beats their peers’ better work, but a little undistinguished. Good guitar sound as always, a nicely deadbeat chorus, but not one of the highlights.
Then, driving back home one day after spending the weekend abroad (well, in the States), my girlfriend let me pick the next album from her iPod for our listening pleasure and I naturally enough opted for Wire. Normally listening to music in a car isn’t that different from listening to it at home, aside from any considerations of concentration that driving may bring up, but my girlfriend owns a Jeep with a soft top. At anything even approaching reasonable highway driving speed the road noise becomes a soft roar and anything that gets played has to be cranked to be audible. Coupled with the vicissitudes of her radio (through which the iPod was broadcasting) and some music is reduced to a trebly mush. Chairs Missing did fairly well, but the sharp highs brought into jagged relief what is now clear to me is the absolute point of “Being Sucked In Again”’s existence: the cymbals.
I’m not sure, now, how I managed to ever ignore them, but the cymbals that sound midway through the titular refrain dwarf everything else on the track. Colin Newman says “being sucked” and where you might expect someone else to echo him (as, indeed, happens later on in the track) Robert Gotobed (or a machine?) plays the two spikiest cymbal hits I have ever heard. The escaping-steam snares on Bowie’s “Sound And Vision” is nothing in comparison. Listened to here at home they’re in line with the rest of the song for loudness, but in the car with the harmonics of the road canceling out parts of the bass and midrange, they were monstrous. I almost turned it down out of concern for our ears, but couldn’t quite bring myself to.
At first they were jarring, disorienting, and outright annoying. They snapped the chorus line in half, sucking out any pleasurable marrow before the listener could. You were trying to hum along with the melody in your head and then TISSH! TISSH! But after a few repetitions (which the song is more than willing to provide enough of) you start looking forward to it. By the time “Being Sucked In Again” is finished, it’s the highlight of the song. They still halt the forward momentum of the track, but they’re what makes the song so interesting. They gnash at the listener, trying to find purchase, before slipping away again. I can only conclude I wasn’t really paying attention before, because now I listen to the song compulsively.
Which is more proof, I suppose, that humans can and will get used to anything; but presumably on these nice re-mastered and re-released editions I have of Wire’s albums the fact that the cymbals are so audible even in my apartment aren’t accidental. Which means, in addition to the fact that I am now slightly addicted to sharp cymbals, “Being Sucked In Again” is one of the more overt examples of Wire’s late-70s effort to “avoid the inevitable.” And like most of their other efforts in that direction, “Being Sucked In Again” proves that the effort pays off tenfold.
By: Ian Mathers
Published on: 2005-07-06