Wire – ‘IBTABA’ UK ‘Chain With No Name’ limited edition postcards and print LP edition (Mute, STUMM66, 1989)

Wire’s ’80s releases on Mute records seem to have been the source of much debate on their worth, in print and amongst the Wire community, the most common complaint being the ’80s production sheen. Wire have been the subject of various biographies and the views of the members themselves have surfaced in these, often with certain levels of distance and disdain to the Mute era work evident. ‘It’s Beginning To And Back Again’ (IBTABA) is a curious release in that it appeared within a year of 1988’s ‘A Bell Is A Cup Until It is Struck’, containing five re-recordings of LP tracks and a B side of that period, the first inklings perhaps of unease with the previous album’s production. The title itself is recycled, hailing from the lyric (or text, as Graham Lewis might prefer it) for ‘German Shepherds’.

Wire 'IBTABA' LP front cover design

^ Wire \’IBTABA\’ LP front cover design

Based upon live recordings, stripped back and with new, fresh layers applied, the versions end up heading in different veins. For me, ‘Boiling Boy’ and ‘A Private’ Place’ stand out; the former a more stripped down diversion (the chassis of which would be revisited by Wire regularly, ‘Boiling Boy’ is very much a constant in the Wire repertoire to this day, in the same manner say as ‘Drill’ was), while the latter is less rushed, more stretched-out version than the previous outing.

Wire 'IBTABA' LP front cover sticker detail

^ Wire \’IBTABA\’ LP front cover sticker detail

‘IBTABA’ though is curious as an object in that its position at the end of the ’80s places it in that time where the CD was rising to become the predominant format. And we can see this in IBTABA – while the LP edition contains 7 tracks, only two of which were ‘new’ songs, the CD edition (and cassette too, mind) also contained an additional three new tracks. Ironically, the ‘bonus’ tracks were amongst the most catchy, commercial ‘pop’ material Wire would pen. Perhaps perversely relegated to bonus status? Or more of a sign that CD was the predominant share? To be fair, ‘Eardrum Buzz’ and ‘The Offer’ had paired either side of the preceding single, while ‘In Vivo’ would be remixed into a more polished form for the following single.

Wire 'IBTABA' LP back cover design

^ Wire \’IBTABA\’ LP back cover design

What the LP edition did have going for it though was the limited edition artwork. ‘Chain With No Name’ was the name for the independent record shop alliance in the UK and it was common for the shops in the chain to stock exclusive limited editions such as this. In addition to the album itself, the set came with an autographed print and four postcards, each with a piece by each member of the band, captured for posterity in the photos accompanying this post.

Wire 'IBTABA' LP - print, postcards and record label A side

^ Wire \’IBTABA\’ LP – print, postcards and record label A side

Sadly, neither the CD nor cassette editions made any attempt to document these additional artworks, so ‘Eggs refuse to clear up pope mystery’ (BC Gilbert’s card), remains largely unknown, its humour absent to those sans-vinyl. ‘Berlin 1987’ (Robert Gotobed’s card), ‘Everyday Pralines’ (Graham Lewis) and ‘Untitled’ (Colin Newman’s contribution which clearly harks back to the warped window reflection style of his first two Beggars Banquet solo singles, ‘B’ and ‘Inventory’) complete the set.

Wire 'IBTABA' LP record label B side

^ Wire \’IBTABA\’ LP record label B side

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