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A Bell Is A Cup Until It Is Struck

4 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

Price: CDN$ 71.99
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (Jan. 12 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Mute U.S.
  • ASIN: B00004SH9D
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Audio Cassette
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #139,485 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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1. Silk Skin Paws
2. The Finest Drops
3. The Queen Of Ur And The King Of Um
4. Free Falling Divisions
5. It's A Boy
6. Boiling Boy
7. Kidney Bingos
8. Come Back In Two Halves
9. Follow The Locust
10. A Public Place
11. The Queen Of Ur And The King Of Um (Alternative Version)
12. Pieta
13. Over Theirs (Live)
14. Drill (Live)

Customer Reviews

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Format: Audio CD
Bigger news to me than Elvis's comeback in 1969, this made little impression upon its release (a friend gave his copy to me) and has grown to be one of my favorite Wire albums in passing years. The A-sides collection (with favorites picked by the fan club) pulls mostly from this lp, and for good reason. The boys adopted a more modern and muscular sound, with repetition and hooks taking place of their moody experimentation of the previous decade. Funny how close modern popular music has come to this some 15 years later. The ambitious propulsion of "Ahead" and "Cheeking Tongues" are very friendly to the ear, and the powerful groove of "Over Theirs" sucks me into its grip every time (I usually play it at least twice in a row). For oddities closer to the old Wire, check out the minimal terrorism of "Feed Me", easily one of their most unsettling pieces. (The live version contained herein flips Colin Newman onto vocals instead of Graham Lewis. Both are chilling and hypnotic.) Still experimental within new guidelines (more with rhythms than backdrops) they managed to produce yet another ambitious effort that the world just wasn't ready for in 1987. (They would later chart this course into obliviion and insignificance, so it's nice to hear works with such freshness.)
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Format: Audio CD
Wire - an important though unsung new wave group (in other words they were musically and lyrically brilliant but did not sell as many records as, say, Rod Stewart) that made an impact with the release of their debut, Pink Flag in 1977. They were jaggedly new wave but also sophisticated and had an ear for melody. After three albums, they disappeared for a while and resurfaced in the mid-80s with a string of stunning records and a more polished sound. The first of which was the celebrated The Ideal Copy and the second, the even more refined A Bell is a Cup.
A Bell received a lukewarm reception from the music press who complained that the band was becoming diluted and commercial. This is a tragedy because I believe it is their best record, their crowning achievement, and one of the best albums of the 80s, right up there alongside Depeche Mode's Black Celebration, and XTC's English Roundabout etc.
The sound is deep and dark and sometimes bleak but always beautiful, thought-provoking and immensely rewarding. All the songs are great, but in my view, Free Falling Divisions, Queen of ER, Kidney Bingos and Public Place are masterpieces of melody, arrangement and wordsmithery. And on this splendid CD version you get extra toons to take the running time up to 74 minutes. Good value!!
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Format: Audio CD
I don't think this album ever got the attention it warrants, probably because of its relative safety when contrasted against ambituous efforts like "154" and even the band's swan song "The First Letter." Practicing restraint rather than arty innovation, they churn out some of their most poppy and downright pleasant works here. A friend once made a comparison to African pop, where guitars serve as much as an element of percussion as of melody. They often click away like small machinery ("Boiling Boy") or swim in and out dreamily ("Kidney Bingos") never distracting from the linear momentum of the songs. Experimentation does creep in at a few points - Bruce Gilbert's guitar rides a myopic one-chord riff throughout "It's a Boy," later building to a scratchy squall of incredible power. Different (and less-effective) versions would later appear, chameleon-like, on "IBTABA" and as a piano-tinged instrumental on the single of "Eardrum Buzz." "A Public Place" has a monotonous guitar blast that punctures the stark piece, much like "Feed Me" on their previous effort "The Ideal Copy." The bonus cd cut "Pieta" gives a hint to future directions, a sort of cyber-minimalism with loping drums, very little melody, and a chanted, mysterious chorus. The live version of "Drill" is outstanding, and we would later be treated to a work of offshoots of this idea (lovingly referred to as 'dugga'). This album may be their most accessible, but never comes across as dull or uninspired, and remains my most played Wire lp.
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Format: Audio CD
A BELL IS A CUP... was Wire's second album in its much misunderstood "second phase", a period which proved, like all of Wire's history, unpredictable and eventually rewarding to those willing to take the time to invest in listening without predjudice, which in all fairness proved excruciatingly hard for those raised on PINK FLAG and CHAIRS MISSING. A BELL IS A CUP... is essentially an update of some of the waters charted on 1979's 154 (and to some extent Colin Newman's solo albums), but whereas 154 presented anger, frustration, and confusion amid warmth and lushness, A BELL IS A CUP... preserves the lushness without much of the warmth. And trading in the anger of their younger years, Wire took to exploring oblique political commentary and careful observation of the world around them instead.
A BELL IS A CUP... contains some of the finest songs of the second phase: the absolute pop of "Kidney Bingos" and "Silk Skinned Paws", both of which contain biting political statements underneath the melody, and "The Queen of Ur And The King Of Um", "Boiling Boy", "The Finest Drops", and "It's A Boy", the last three of which were improved upon in their re-made versions contained on 1989's IBTABA. Much of the problem with this record is not in the songs themselves or the performances, but rather in the over-produced nature of the album as well as some now very dated synthesizer work and electronics which tend to get in the way of what it seems the band were trying to achieve (in which they were successful on SNAKEDRILL, IBTABA, THE FIRST LETTER, and WIRVIEN). So whereas many felt IBTABA somewhat redundant when it appeared a year after A BELL IS A CUP..., in retrospect the re-worked versions make more sense now.
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