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Wire - Wire

  by Adrian Janes

published: 4 / 5 / 2015

Wire - Wire
Label: Pink Flag
Format: CD


Competent eponymous fourteenth studio album from seminal post-punk outfit, Wire

It’s turning out to be quite a year for the original post-punk bands, with new albums from the Gang of Four, the Pop Group and now Wire. The latter might take some exception to this label, having actually been sufficiently part of punk to have appeared on 1977’s epochal ‘Live at the Roxy’ album. But even then they showed a certain detachment from the scene, and their subsequent evolution towards the present blend of accomplished smooth and abrasive sounds has taken them ever further away from the world of Johnny Moped. As for the present world, brisk opener ‘Blogging’ comments wryly on online pontificators who are “Blogging like Jesus” and “Tweet like a pope”, and pervasive technological idolatry: “Blackberry hedge-fund/New Apples divine”. Though there is a certain mellow tone to the music and Colin Newman’s vocals, it’s prickled with synth and guitar, much as the smooth sheen cast over the first few tracks of the album gradually leads to more turbulent depths. Thus ‘Shifting’ actually concerns the pain of a relationship breaking up, even as the seductively clean sound (reminiscent of Engineers) works to partially conceal it. But by ‘Sleepwalking’, centrally positioned in the running order, the pace has slowed to the punctuation of a bass drum thud and the atmosphere is one of taut menace. If a General Election wasn’t imminent, perhaps the chorus’ warning of “The narrowest vision/Often has the widest appeal” wouldn’t seem pointedly political. Whatever its meaning, the song concludes strongly in an unhurried, mournfully mesmeric drone of synth and guitars. ‘Joust & Jostle’ almost harks back to the band’s 21-track debut in its catchy brevity and hi-hat driven New Wave feel. In contrast it’s followed by ‘Swallow’, and a subtle building of layers through bass and hi-hat to snare, synth and guitars. As throughout the album, Robert Grey’s drumming is metronomically steady but not very inventive. This is dictated by the decision (taken many years ago) to limit his kit to bass drum, snare and hi-hat. I can’t help but feel that what might have once have been an interesting experiment has by now hardened into dogma - in the interests of musical justice, perhaps his bandmates should try working with one or two strings. The darker depths suggested in earlier songs come to the fore from ‘Split Your Ends’ onwards. The usually dry snare reverberates, and both vocals and guitar possess more bite than previously, while an edgy synth phrase propels everything. “Mend your ways but split your ends” Newman wittily, albeit cryptically, counsels. ‘Octopus’, with its catchy, wordy chorus, combines the pop sensibility of the earlier phase of the album with harshly distorted guitar and other guitar spurts. It has power but, like some of the other tracks (for instance, the breezy ‘In Manchester’) no real feeling of development. Moving further out to sea, ‘Harpooned’ sucks the listener into a roiling ocean of sound. With its eight -minute plus length and remorseless power, I’m tempted to call it Wire’s ‘Kashmir’. The guitars are jagged as sharks’ teeth, recalling Danish band Silo (who Newman has previously produced), and the singing has a not so quiet desperation that distinctly contrasts with the usual cool-headed Wire approach. Spurts of dirty guitar besmirch the long, drawn-out fade, like the death agony of a captured Moby Dick. Distinctive in sound from the rest of the album, it also lingers longest in the memory. Overall this is a good album; there isn’t really one track that doesn’t have something interesting about it. At the same time, only a couple of the songs (‘Shifting” and “Harpooned’) are truly outstanding. Yet those two contrast so strongly in sound and style as to show Wire - augmented since 2013 by a much younger guitarist in Matthew Simms - retain real freshness and remain worth listening to.

Track Listing:-
1 Blogging
2 Shifting
3 Burning Bridges
4 In Manchester
5 High
6 Sleep-Walking
7 Joust & Jostle
8 Swallow
9 Split Your Ends
10 Octopus
11 Harpooned

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Interview (2010)
Wire - Interview
Anthony Strutt talks to Wire bassist Graham Lewis at a gig in London about 'Red Barked Tree', their forthcoming new album
Interview with Colin Newman (2007)

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Lexington, London, 15/4/2015
Wire - Lexington, London, 15/4/2015
At the Lexington in London, Adrian Janes witnesses a powerful performance from reinvigorated post-punk veterans, Wire

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Red Barked Tree (2010)
Fabulous and innovative twelfth album from pioneering punk band, Wire
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