Wire have been one of the most quietly profound bands for the last nearly 40 years. They’ve been labeled punk, post-punk, art rock, pop, and I’m sure countless other genres throughout their massive career, all the while being a band that has influenced and inspired generations of alternative and indie bands that have -for all intents and purposes- found far greater fame and attention than Wire ever did. This hasn’t seemed to stop Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, Robert Grey, and Matthew Simms from continuing the band’s pursuit of musical creation. Ever since 2011s Red Barked Tree the band has been on an artistic and creative streak with brand new full-length albums like Change Become Us and Wire; as well as the live The Black Session – Paris, 10 May 2011. Wire have returned once again with a brand new record called Nocturnal Koreans. Relatively lean at 8 songs clocking in at 26 minutes, the album is in and out and wastes no time in getting all heady and heavy. It’s Wire in Pink Flag form, but not nearly as mad. Or at least not mad at the same things.
They kick things off with the upbeat title track. Driving, propulsive pop with a touch of darkness. “Internal Exile” is soft spoken musically but packs a big punch. The Newman/Lewis songwriting team have always excelled at mixing art with catchy melodies and 40 years in that’s still the case. “Dead Weight” is another relatively quaint pop song with lots happening in the mix. “Forward Position” is a weightier track both in length(clocking in at nearly 5 minutes in comparison to the average 3 minute mark on most of the songs) and in sonically speaking. We’ve stumbled into 154 territory here. “Numbered” and its quirky vocals and jagged riffs pull out some Chairs Missing punches, showing those 30-somethings where the term “post-punk” really came from. “Fishes Bones” feels like a complicated puzzle being explained enthusiastically by a madman. It’s quirky and catchy and a little insane.
I’m sure there’s plenty of opinions on how far Wire’s winning streak goes, but there’s no question as to the genius and bulletproof status of their first three records. Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, and 154 are pretty much the beginning point of post-punk. They’re also the framework of what would become the alternative movement in the early 80s. For a band to continuously evolve and expand their creative and artistic horizons over the course of 40 years -especially in the stuffy and finicky world of alternative music- is a feat unto itself. While Wire have had their share of ups and downs, break ups, and solo records notwithstanding, they have remained vital and relevant throughout all that time. Nocturnal Koreans is further proof of that vitality.