BY JASON GROSS
It’s amazing that these punk minimalists waited for decades to do a self-titled album but that’s just part of their irony and art. For their 14th album (their first one of new material with guitarist Matthew Simms), we get to hear a kinder, gentler version of Wire but don’t let that fool you- wimpy or empty they ain’t.
Compared to the fury of their post-millennium comeback (the Read & Burn EP’s, the Send album) and with the loss of founder/guitarist Bruce Gilbert, their last few albums were missing some of the avant leanings and hard-nosed spirit of their early albums and even some of their dancey ’80s records too. As such, old fans might be put off a bit from their seemingly pleasant-sounding music now. At times, they sound like a darker version of the dB’s (not a bad thing really) or that they did a whole album modeled after a polished take on “Outdoor Miner” (also not bad necessarily).
Vocally, it’s all guitarist Colin Newman now, who’s ditched his yelp mode for a calmer tone now. He starts off name-checking all the online items he can think of on “Blogging” to a low-key minimal rock backing, only interrupted by an off-beat solo. By the next tune, he’s actually pleading about a fading relationship (“Shifting”), backed by melodic guitars in an airy atmosphere and only a lightly menacing tone shoved into the background. From there, they get majestic (“Burning Bridges”), jaunty (“High”), creepy-crawly (“Sleep-Walking”) and even a little psychedelic (the bouncy “Swallow”). Finally at the end, they rev things up with a strong trio of tunes- “Split Your Ends” is a tight rocker that could almost be a Tom Petty boogie except for the dark synths and buzzing guitars, “Octopus” features jagged, harsh noises and controlled chaos interludes and the lengthy “Harpooned” has Colin almost drown out by grand, noisy slow-churning of the band.
‘Good’? Sure. Consistent? Yeah, but maybe a little too consistent at times as Newman’s voice doesn’t ID or differentiate the songs as much as they could sometimes. A little more variety to shake things up would be nice, like maybe giving bassist Graham Lewis more than just a vocal cameo here. In the end, Wire is Wire- a strange, alluring, arty old-school punk collective that lives by its own rules, just like the Fall or Pere Ubu. If this album doesn’t bowl you over, it doesn’t disappoint either and rest assured that their next record will be something different that you didn’t expect either. And for that, we should be grateful.
DOWNLOAD: “Harpooned,” “Split Your Ends”