Wire: 154 (1979)
The most immediate thrills come from lead singer Colin Newman's musical contributions, which infuse infectious pop hooks into the album's at times darker aesthetics. The centerpiece is of course "Map Ref. 41°N 93°W," second only to Chairs' "Outdoor Miner" in establishing Wire's AM radio pop chops, intriguing verses followed by a chorus so catchy they shout out "Chorus!" to make sure the listener is prepared. But the mid-tempo churn of "The 15th," the boisterous energy of "Two People in a Room," and the rousing twin-guitar attack of "On Returning" are nearly as winning. Bassist Graham Lewis and guitarist Bruce Gilbert make this a true group effort, contributing more haunting tunes like opener "I Should Have Known Better" (not the Beatles song), "Single K.O.," and the relatively poppy "Blessed State." Closer "40 Versions" sees the album out on another dark and creepy note, far afield from Pink Flag's buoyant fury, a haunting bookend to the band's original run (setting aside a few stray singles and Newman's solo debut, which can be viewed as a sort of fourth and final album from the original band).
Here's a surprisingly straightforward live take on "Map Ref.":