Wire, (formed in London in October 1976) are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year and celebrate with the release of their new album Silver/Lead which has just been released on the band’s Pinkflag label. The foursome that include Colin Newman on vocals and guitar, Graham Lewis bass and vocals, Bruce Gilbert, guitar, and Robert Gotobed, drums, were in the first instance known on the punk-rock scene in London.
They then became more of an art-punk, post-punk outfit who have been revered as one of the important bands of the 1970s and 1980s. They began with an early riotous punk style in their first album, 1977’s Pink Flag to a more complex sound on 1978’s Chairs Missing and 1979’s 154 with more emphasis on synthesisers. They are cited for their creativity and lack of inhibitions in experimenting with sounds over the course of their extensive career. It seems to have held them in good stead. Their last three albums were highly talked about: 2013’S Change Becomes Us, 2015’s Wire and their mini-album Nocturnal Koreans of 2016. They have also influenced many bands over the years such as REM, Sonic Youth, and Blur. But as a band they tend not to rest on their laurels and only like to look forward.
Silver/Lead is their 16th album. First track Playing Harp for the Fishes starts with an ominous impression to it, with crunchy guitars, a prog rock and synth sound. Short Elevated Period is their latest single and diverges completely. It is bright, breezy guitar-driven pop. It has an early REM sound and, like the Primitives Crash, it runs at breakneck speed. Diamonds in Cups has a glam-rock style and a cheerfulness about it. “Wanting for better, the best that you’ve been…the course of creation is quite often strange” lyrically it reminds me of The Moody Blues. Poignant. I really like this one.
Forever and a Day begins with a crackly radio sound before a brilliant guitar and drums comes in. This is, quite simply, a love song. “Oooh darrling, I want you to stay”. Colin Newman’s deep vocals remind me of Euro Childs (lead singer with Welsh band Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci) meets Bryan Ferry early Roxy Music. Eloquent. Alibi is haunting and electronic sounding with a resolute catchphrase Have you got an alibi? Sonic Lens has a lingering, evocative feel to it. Its effect is monosyllabic and disconcerting but not in a negative way: it’s absolutely hypnotic. This Time has similar, ethereal qualities with some driven yet understated guitar.
With a whale-sounding undertone to it Brio indeed washes over you like a wave. This reminded me of the emotional sincerity of the Doves, Some Cities album. It is melancholic and compelling. A stand-out. Sleep on the Wing is so dreamy it is exquisite. It makes me feel happy and sad simultaneously. Closer track Silver/Lead has an air of eeriness about it. There are unnerving lyrics “gathering clouds annoyed the dead…abandon can’t afford to keep” and a laboured beat. Wire can take you on an emotional rollercoaster and give you goose bumps and that’s high up on my agenda. This is contemplative, affecting and, for a band that’s been going for 40 years, absolutely timeless.