The original punks claimed to be non-conformists, but that didn't stop many of them from mimicking each other, just like the squares they scorned. The men of Wire, in contrast, were too pissy to modulate their behavior to fit any trend, and their stubborn individualism pays off on Box, a CD/DVD set whose gratifyingly aggressive music is fueled by dramatic tension.

Both audio and video are culled from Rockpalast, a German television program that spotlighted the band for a full hour at the end of the '70s. Faced with a studio audience filled with feathery-haired teens who look as if they wish ABBA were on the bill, Wire-mates Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, Bruce Gilbert and Robert Gotobed rip through "Mercy" and over a dozen more jagged, rigorous compositions. Later they sit for an interview with host Alan Bangs, whom the players treat with smooth contempt. After Bangs recalls a moment when Lewis "dryly" informed an audience member that the group didn't play requests, Lewis tells him that "accurately" is a more appropriate adverb, because "we're not a jukebox."

After a similar exchange, Bangs mutters, "I knew this would be difficult." A quarter-century later, his exasperation remains as vivid as the music.


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