As a band Wire are far more accomplished and creative, than to rest their laurels on past glories. Throughout their, almost, 40 year existence, they have constantly produced music that is very much of the here and now. Maybe not so much in the limelight, but their presence has been constant, not exactly underground, more watching and guiding from the side-lines. Wire have constantly moved forward with their music, refusing to be seen as look back nostalgics. Their latest album, the eponymously named ‘Wire’ is a world apart from the bands most influential albums, and for those looking to rediscover the energy and spirit of ’77-‘79 you’ll be disappointed. But, putting the nostalgia aside, you’ll find a set of recordings that show why the band has not only endured, but has progressed and has managed to maintain relevance, originality and influence.
As an album, Wire traverses easily between simple, up-beat melodies, through to a distorted, pleasantly jarring crescendo. Opening track ‘Blogging’ is almost light hearted in its take on virtual shopping and online obsessions. But by the time we get to ‘Harpooned’ that light heartedness has long gone and we find ourselves in a somewhat darker place, the music more distorted and slightly claustrophobic, as the lyrics talk us through a psychotic episode. This trait has not gone unnoticed by Graham; “People said we were mysterious, arch and dark. But the only way of doing that successfully, is by also having a sense of humour. You have to have that balance. With Wire there’s a peculiarity, a contrariness and that can be funny.” This is reflected throughout the album, not only in the transition between the light and dark, but also in the bands ability to come up with a set of great pop songs that are at the same time ambitious and experimental in their presentation. Coming in under two minutes in length, ‘High’ is brief and punchy in its delivery. In stark contrast, ‘Sleep-Walking’ and ‘Harpooned’ are lengthy, multi-layered and somewhat complex affairs that demonstrate each band member’s unique musical abilities which gives the album a lot of its substance. Fresh, contemporary and of the now, yet at the same time offering the comfort and stability that can only come from musicians with as much experience. “The point where our personal narratives meet is all about change – moving on and keeping it interesting for ourselves,” says Newman. “We’re in it for the long haul and this is a one-way trip.”
Most of the lyrics for the album come from the pen of bass player Graham Lewis and range from melodic love songs to distorted tales of psychosis. Two of the tracks, ‘Split Your Ends’ and ‘In Manchester’ are the result of Newman asking Lewis to provide him with some incomplete lyrics so he ‘wouldn’t be bound by what to use for the chorus’. The latter having the slightly irrational fact that despite its title and chorus line, the song has nothing at all do with the city, its music scene or anything else.
It’s hard to discern a particular track as been above the rest, as part of the beauty of this album is the way the tracks intertwine to create a whole almost conceptual feel to the album. That said, if I could only take one track it would be ‘Sleepwalking’. The track showcases everything that is good about Wire today. “With ‘Sleepwalking’, I don’t think we even ran all the way through it before we recorded it.” Newman says. “Wire do this thing so well and there’s instant atmosphere. There’s my rhythm guitar, Matt playing lap steel, Graham (Lewis) playing bass with effects – there’s as much effects as bass – and Rob’s tolling drumming. It was already almost sustainable for six minutes with just that.”
To be honest it took me a couple of listens to really appreciate this release. Wire is a very well-produced album and herein lays my only concern. Having seen the band perform the majority of the album tracks live, [click HERE for live review and pics], I found the recorded versions a bit too, for want of a better expression, perfect. But maybe that says more about how good the band are live – and believe me they are really, really good live – than it does about the album.
Alongside the release of the album, Wire will be embarking upon full UK and US tour, kicking off with five nights (14-18 April) at the Lexington in London, where the band will headline plus a different curated support each night. If you like what you hear in whatever format you purchase the album, do not miss the chance to see and hear the live renditions, for this is where the band excel and these tracks truly soar above expectation.
In summary; those who have followed Wire from the start will appreciate the album greatly. For those re-discovering Wire after their early seminal releases, you may be surprised as to where and how far they have come, and for those that are discovering them for the first time, sit back and soak it in a bit at a time, it will shine through.
‘Wire’ by Wire is released on Monday 12th April via PinkFlag.
Catch Wire live at the following…
April 12-13 – UK – BRIGHTON – Prince Albert
April 14 – UK – LONDON – DRILL : LEXINGTON w/ Karen Gwyer
April 15 – UK – LONDON – DRILL : LEXINGTON w/ Tomaga
April 16 – UK – LONDON – DRILL : LEXINGTON w/ Boothroyd
April 17 – UK – LONDON – DRILL : LEXINGTON w/ Orlando
April 18 – UK – LONDON – DRILL : LEXINGTON w/ Xaviers
April 20 – UK – SOUTHAMPTON – Engine Rooms
April 21 – UK – RAMSGATE – Music Hall
April 22 – UK – NOTTINGHAM – Rescue Rooms
April 23 – UK – LIVERPOOL – Kazimer
April 24 – UK – HEBDEN BRIDGE – Trades Club
April 26 – UK – ABERDEEN – Lemon Tree
April 27- UK – GLASGOW – King Tuts
April 28 – UK – LEEDS – Brudenell Social Club
April 29 – UK – MANCHESTER – Club Academy
April 30 – UK – BRISTOL – Fleece
May 27 – USA – SEATTLE, WA – Nuemos
May 29 – USA – SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Slim’s
May 30 – USA – LOS ANGELES, CA – The Echoplex
June 02 – USA – CAMBRIDGE, MA – The Sinclair
June 03 – USA – BROOKLYN, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg
June 04 – USA – NEW YORK, NY – Bowery Ballroom
June 05 – USA – PHILADELPHIA, PA – Union Transfer
June 06 – USA – WASHINGTON, DC – Black Cat
June 08 – USA – CLEVELAND, OH – Beachland Ballroom
June 09 – USA – DETROIT, MI – Majestic Theatre
June 10 – USA – LOUISVILLE, KY – Headliners