For almost forty years now, post-punk survivalists Wire have been turning in blisteringly intelligent records. But despite their thirty nine years in the biz, the band seem to have no interest whatsoever in nostalgic navel gazing. WIRE, their newest release, sees the band not looking backwards, but gazing unflinchingly at the now. It’s a record that attempts to deconstruct the hypocrisies of our techno-centric age, and on that level, as on so many others, it is a resounding success.
Album opener Blogging sets the tone perfectly, with lead singer Colin Newman listing off terms like “Amazon wishlist” and “high-rated app” in deliberately flat, gentle tones. The sum effect mimics the endless information avalanche, submersing the listener in jargon that has become part of everyday lingo. It’s a pitch-perfect track; intelligent and musically courageous.
As always, Wire never seem bound to a particular genre or style. Although ‘art punk’ seems to be the category in which they are most often tagged, the term ‘punk’ serves only to describe their musical inventiveness. Indeed, some of the tracks on WIRE are surprisingly upbeat, albeit in a distinctly anarchic way. In Manchester and Burning Bridges are examples of the band’s aesthetic left-turns: they are both anthemic, glossy tunes, that rumble and rattle with a rage that lies just under the surface.
Indeed, the whole album is resolutely Wire-esque: the best way to describe it is as typically atypical. Songs like Sleep-Walking and Octopus brim with insistent darkness, but are still resolutely accessible and come to feel almost poppy by their conclusions; or at least, pop filtered through the bitterest of filters.
But just when one feels ready to define the tone of the album, a song like the blistering, eight minute Harpooned comes along. It’s one of the harshest songs Wire have yet recorded, and yet, ironically, one of their most hopeful. Through images of destruction – lines like “set fire to the kitchen” abound – the band eventually find themselves at a point of emotional catharsis. Destruction has, after all, always been an act of creation, and the note the album ends on is one of cautious, realistic, hope.
Like their post-punk colleagues The Pop Group, who released a similarly powerful work this year, Wire have managed to update their sound without ever trading in who they are as a band. All in all,WIRE is a visceral, intelligent release, crafted by a group of musicians who show no signs of slowing down.