“Wire” by Wire

on April 6, 2015


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Wire are rightfully counted as trailblazers—they’re one of those groups who saw the “punk movement” as an open invitation to creatives from all backgrounds and predilections to try and make a mark on popular culture, and were therefore simply classified as “post-punk” for the sake of brevity. But what exactly are Wire? On Pink Flag they were “punks.” But elsewhere, the lines seem to blur. Listen to “Madman’s Honey” off The Ideal Copy. Are Wire psych-rockers at heart? Or are they calculated crafters of sophisti-pop? Consider founding members Graham Lewis and Bruce Gilbert’s numerous avant-garde side-projects. Deep down, Wire have the curiosity and adventurous spirit of true experimentalists. Of course, just about every decent band will defensively claim when pressed that they don’t pay as much mind to labels as their critics, but it’s the rare band that actually defies classification from album to album.

If there’s a label you could readily shove onto them, it’s that they’re probably the quintessential underrated band. Wire is a name that many like to drop, but how many have dove into their rich discography? Frontman Colin Newman has been at the craft for over 30 years, and if there was ever a bad Wire album, I don’t remember it. It would be nice to say the same for Mark E. Smith’s slapdash brilliance, which can produce mediocre junk as easily as gold.

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The new self-titled Wire album is more or less Wire on cruise-control, but that’s not unwelcome at all, for me, anyway. I’d rather listen to some nice tunes from Newman and company than “post-punk revival” like the overhyped but decent-enough Sleaford Mods and the sleepy Savages. I got a little nervous at the first stanza of the opener, “Blogging,” which paints a slightly melodramatic picture of social media and is the one somewhat disappointing note on this pleasant new album. In truth, I was not as impressed with the more highfalutin lyrical ambitions of Wire as I was with the bittersweet amours (“Burning Bridges”) and astute sketches (“Swallow”). Colin Newman’s gift for captivating melodies and clever turns of phrase is still ironclad. There is one truly brilliant line on this album: “The narrowest vision often has the widest appeal.” Perhaps that is why Wire, one of the most ferociously eclectic and intelligent acts in the history of rock, has never completely come out of the shadows. »

– Matthew Sweeney

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