Though they might not have realized it at the time, San Francisco-based Wire Train deftly helped to define American independent music. Their debut album In A Chamber could rightly be considered one of the first “alternative rock” albums, as it blends New Wave, Power Pop, College Rock, and Post Punk into ten quite satisfying and original songs. Said album has now been remastered and expanded, bringing back to the world an album unfairly existing in obscurity.
Formed in 1983 by guitarists Kevin Hunter and Kurt Herr, their blend of contemporary sounds quickly garnered them a following, and soon they were signed to local label 415 Records, joining a roster with equally exciting bands Romeo Void and Translator. It’s a sign of the band’s high quality of songwriting that they were able to quickly come up with a full-length album so quickly after forming. The ten songs on In A Chamber burn with youthful urgency and vitality, all driven by a nervous energy that only adds to their appeal. Though one can definitely hear The Cure as an influence, especially on “Everything’s Turning Up Down Again,” “Like,” and their beloved single, “Chamber of Hellos,” it’s to their credit that they didn’t attempt to imitate Robert Smith. Furthermore, on tracks like “I’ll Do You,” “I Gotta Go,” and “Love Against Me” are slices of jangly All-American College Rock a la R.E.M and label mates Translator and Red Rockers. (This expanded reissue offers six bonus tracks; three are excellent b-sides, and three are remixes—the London mix of “Chamber of Hellos” is excellent and plays up the Cure side, while two by contemporary remixer Ivan Ivan are less essential and unfortunately sound quite dated.)
In A Chamber was a quick, concise album that promised great things for the band’s future whilst being a completely enjoyable and satisfying listen on its own. It’s not surprising that the album garnered critical acclaim and opportunities to tour the country opening for others. Although changes were in the air—half of the band would leave during the making of their sophomore album–Wire Train would continue on, and while Hunter would remain the only constant throughout its lifetime, the quality of their music never faltered, and they never released anything that didn’t meet the high bar set by In A Chamber.