WirThe First Letter

Label:Mute – cdstumm87
CD, Album
Genre:Electronic, Rock
Style:Alternative Rock, Synth-pop, Experimental


1Take It (For Greedy)3:14
2So And Slow It Grows5:13
3A Bargain At 3 And 20 Yeah!2:55
4Footsi - Footsi4:55
5Ticking Mouth6:31
6It Continues4:33
7Looking At Me (Stop!)4:12
8Naked, Whooping And Such-Like (Extended On And On)
Narrator [Reading By]Claude Bessey*
Words ByLewis*
9Tailor Made3:48
10No Cows On The Ice4:16
11A Big Glue Canal4:09
12So And Slow It Grows (Single Mix)
EngineerGeorge Holt
Producer [Additional], Mixed By [Additional]Pascal Gabriel

Companies, etc.



Particular thanks to: M.J.Collins, Bryan Grant, Philli Whinstanley, Claude Bessey, Daniel Miller, Mac, Jo, Kenman, Pepe's, Claire Phillips, David Phillips, Stretchheads, Pascale, Douglas Brothers, Ron Young, Piquet, Casio.

Published by Mute Song. Recorded at Worldwide. Track 12 additional production, mix and engineering at Swanyard Recording Studios.

On CD: ℗ + © 1991 Mute Records Ltd
In Booklet: ℗ + © 1991 Mute Records Limited

Jewel case edition with double foldout eight page booklet.

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Barcode (Text): 5 016025 610877
  • Barcode (String): 5016025610877
  • Matrix / Runout: CDSTUMM-87 12 A2 DADC AUSTRIA

Other Versions (5 of 13)

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Title (Format)LabelCat#CountryYear
Recently Edited
The First Letter (CD, Album)Mute, Elektra, Mute, Elektra9 61238-2, 61238-2US1991
Recently Edited
The First Letter (LP, Album)MuteSTUMM 87UK1991
Recently Edited
The First Letter (CD, )Mute30908France1991
Recently Edited
The First Letter (CD, Album)Mute, MuteINT 846.876, CDStumm87Germany1991
Recently Edited
The First Letter (LP, Album, Stereo)Mute, Mute, Mute, MuteINT 146.876, int 146.876, Stumm 87, stumm87Germany1991



  • Gronk73's avatar
    The most immediately striking thing about "The First Letter" is that Graham Lewis handles the majority of lead vocals while Colin Newman fades into the background, singing a few phrases as garnish around the edges of the songs. In fact, Newman performs only two lead vocals on the album, one of which--'Looking at Me (Stop!)'--heavily distorts his voice. (Meanwhile, Bruce Gilbert reenters the fray with 'Ticking Mouth,' his first lead vocal on a Wire album since 1979.) Obviously this was in many ways an experimental album: drummer Robert Gotobed had departed, Lewis had taken a more central role and everything was on the table. But the results weren't as exciting as they might have been under these conditions. The group were still aiming for a dance hit, so mechanized beats and droning, emotionally remote vocals took precedence over intensity, and this material has aged about as well as most of the music from 1991...which is to say, not very. Its slick, robotic production badly dates "The First Letter," but to a great extent the production is inseparable from the material. These songs probably would never have existed without Wir's insistence on employing current technology to record an album as opposed to just plugging in and playing.

    There are some worthwhile moments, however: 'Take It (for Greedy)', which samples a single lurching chord from Wire's 1977 classic 'Strange'; 'Footsi-Footsi,' distinguished by a compelling secondary vocal melody woven around (believe it or not) the bass line from 'Louie Louie'; and the single mix of the somber--but catchy--'So and Slow It Grows,' which closes the album. Even when they were struggling with their identity as a band, Wire always managed to come up with an interesting item or two.
    • leefact25's avatar
      "Ticking Mouth" features a very rare lead vocal on a Wire track from Bruce Gilbert. The only other examples are "The Other Window" (the "154" version only - not the Peel Session) - "Half Eaten" from "Send" - and the spoken phrase "Which Way Michael?" from the criminally overlooked 1988 B-Side "Pieta".
      • ubikman's avatar
        Edited 8 years ago
        By far, the most criminally underrated item in the Wir(e) catalog. A crying shame—it's amazing to me that no one has commented on this release after so many years in the musical wilderness. Time to set the record (CD) straight & address this very issue. Can I be completely objective regarding "The First Letter"? The jury's out, as I've been an unabashed Wir(e) nut ever since they started, and have followed their various styles pretty religiously over the years. I remain wholly enamored with their 80s/90s electronic phase, and much prefer the recordings of that period to their earlier, oft-regarded 'classics' (though by no means do I dismiss those great recordings; simply that the following decades' work tends to be spun more regularly around these parts). As Wire's experimentations in sound & texture expanded its remit, I found myself getting more & more fascinated where they were in fact going. Despite the decision for Robert (Grey) Gotobed to leave prior to "The First Letter" sessions (finding his role as a drummer/percussionist rendered moot), the end result is that the subsequent recording is, simply put, a masterpiece. Yes, this will be a debated subject both within & around the Wire cognoscenti, but, for this reviewer frankly, with "TFL", the remaining trio came up with some of the most brilliant sound design of their career, generally eclipsing much of what would eventually be christened 'electronica' or IDM in the later years (and foreshadowing Colin Newman's eventual embracing of technology full-on with the inauguration of his Swim label). With its absolutely deft, continuously astonishing rhythm & synth programming, clever lyrics & vocal interplay, and uniquely forged compositions, "The First Letter" transcends 'rock'/post-rock/whatever, occupying a genre all its own. The overall sound design never ceases to amaze: Newman & Graham Lewis's idiosyncratic voices make for yet another definable piece of the album's many puzzles; the sheer wealth of sounds on hand tickle the ear & warp the mind. It's pop muzik for the 30th century, futuristic & prescient simultaneously—its sonic imprimatur hasn't aged a day. Even after more (re)plays than I can count, the album still retains the eardrum buzz that marks the group's finest work. Ignore the naysayers, hell, even Newman's own casual dismissal of its importance; "The First Letter" is both a marvel & a triumph.


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