April 22, 2015

Review: Wire | Wire

After 39 years and a dozen albums as an on-again-off-again concern, London punk visionaries Wire have finally gotten around to releasing a proper -- albeit Wire-y -- dream-pop album. Though hinted at in classic cuts such as "Outdoor Miner" and "Map Ref. 41°N 93°W," never before has the quartet allowed itself to be so outwardly smooth, melancholy and serene. The new, eponymous 11-track collection integrates the impulses of Wire's exploratory rebirth following 2003's triumph Send into an inviting and cohesive set of mid-tempo songs, some yet bearing the sonic hallmarks of their highly celebrated late-'70s output. But Wire's lofty goal continues to be novelty (in the non-pejorative sense), and so it was inevitable that dream-pop would be way station. That inevitability, however, makes it no less enjoyable.

"The point where our personal narratives meet is all about change -- moving on and keeping it interesting for ourselves," guitarist and singer Colin Newman said recently in a press release. "We're in it for the long haul and this is a one-way trip." With that mission statement in mind, and, with touring guitarist Matt Simms (also of the massively under-rated It Hugs Back) now officially contributing to the group, the new disc wastes no time in throwing up an array of guitar textures both intricate and transporting. The band seems to have challenged itself to write clean and catchy numbers that draw great strength from their economy, and the results have certainly resonated with the record-buying public in the U.K., where Wire is the band's first album to chart in nearly 30 years.

Opener "Blogging" not only offers observations that hit a little too close to home for this reviewer, but also finds the band exploring a bluesy, deep groove that, dare we say it, approximates a simple sensuality similar to that of Violator-era Depeche Mode. The ensuing tune "Shifting" reinforces the steady, cleanly produced drum sound that dominates much of the album, while also highlighting the band's melodic gifts. Newman has always excelled at simple and elegant vocal melodies, and of this we are reminded here by his softly sung refrains of "gave you one more chance." By the third number, "Burning Bridges," it is clear just where Wire are journeying on their "one-way trip." A suitably dreamy video for the stand-out tune was released to the wilds of the Internerds earlier this week; watch it here.

The hook-laden "In Manchester" deploys prickly and warped lead guitar notes, which blend with subtle synth and drummer Robert Grey's ever-upfront hi-hat and snare work. "Octopus" raises the intensity a bit, with abrupt bursts of fuzz and chord changes that carry an energy straight out of Chairs Missing. "High" pits arpeggiated effects and synth strings against a traditional punk beat, and in doing so marries Wire's trademark brevity to a more shoegazey vibe. Interestingly, Messrs. Newman and Simms close some songs out with zipping and sizzling lead guitar effects that recall what My Bloody Valentine used on its cover of the aforementioned "Map Ref. 41°N 93°W" -- the Lovetone Meatball envelope filter, to be exact -- suggesting that Wire may have internalized the work of some of the very artists they had originally influenced. Perhaps, this feedback loop is what ultimately defines the album, since Newman and company sound more at ease than ever simply taking delight and relaxing in their own starry quirkiness.

Given the stunning results here, we are hopeful that Wire represents yet another new beginning for the the band, as the record manages to be cohesive, yet a great accompaniment to just about any mood. Wire was released this week via the band's own Pink Flag label; order it right here. The band is presently touring the UK through the end of the month, and embark on a two-week strand of dates in the U.S. at the end of May; full American dates are listed below. -- Edward Charlton

Wire: Facebook | Internerds | Soundcloud

05.26 -- Portland, OR -- Dantes
05.27 -- Seattle, WA -- Nuemos
05.29 -- San Francisco, CA -- Slim's
05.30 -- Los Angeles, CA -- The Echoplex
06.02 -- Cambridge, MA -- The Sinclair
06.03 -- Brooklyn, NY -- Music Hall of Williamsburg
06.04 -- New York, NY -- Bowery Ballroom
06.05 -- Philadelphia, PA -- Union Transfer
06.06 -- Washington, DC -- Black Cat
06.08 -- Cleveland, OH -- Beachland Ballroom
06.09 -- Detroit, MI -- Majestic Theatre
06.10 -- Louisville, KY -- Headliners
06.11-13 -- Chicago, IL -- DRILL:CHICAGO

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