1977 is widely considered the year punk exploded, with classic releases from the likes of Sex Pistols, The Clash and Ramones. Towards the end of the year, Wire appeared with their debut record Pink Flag, approaching the punk attitude in fresh and unique way which went on to influence a multitude of modern genres including shoegaze, post-punk, alternative and even britpop.
Thirteen records later and Wire are still with us. The band has aged gracefully without relying on old sounds or their cult status to make a good LP, a point proven with their surprisingly solid eponymous album.
Unlike many punk bands, the band have grown and evolved through the years, smoothing out their edges and getting comfortable with themselves, never sounding like they’re trying too hard or like they’ve got something more to prove. The record is surprisingly laid-back, clean and poppy, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Wire are still sharp as ever, just a little less spiky. It’s one of their most cohesive records to date, packed tight with cool grooves, catchy melodies, witty lyrics and expansive atmospheres, all of which flow nicely into the next song. While the album doesn’t forget any of the band’s past experiments, it twists them into new shapes, making for a satisfying and surprisingly easy listening experience.
“Blogging” opens the album with a gritty groove and lyrics that pit the internet against biblical times, with references to the 3 kings, Google Star Maps, Apple, Amazon, Twitter and eBay, and believe it or not, it works well. Their love for free association and clever non-sequiturs is seen again in track three with lines like “I started burning bridges/When I gave up counting sheep” and “An asbestos chimney/Can shorten your life,” ending what would be an otherwise pretty lullaby. “In Manchester” boasts punky verses that quickly twist into a gorgeous, uplifting chorus. “Sleep-Walking” is a heavy, seven minute psychedelic jam complete with droning keyboards, groaning guitars and warped voices whispering in the background, “The narrowest vision/often has the widest appeal,” sounding like an overtly political Pink Floyd. “Joust & Jostle” is a fun, quick punk song like something off of Pink Flag, but things really pick up with “Swallow,” which blends the record’s best ideas for a laid back, melodic arena rock groove that somehow manages to still sound cool. “Octopus” is a fast paced punk track which interestingly sounds a lot like early Elastica, who were sued for ripping off Wire for their hit “Connection.” “Harpooned” is another long, heavy jam which breaches on stoner rock before confidently closing the record with noisy, echoing guitar loops.
While some of their frenetic energy and vitriol has evaporated, they’ve replaced it with nice melodies, tight arrangements and solid, mid-tempo grooves, sounding fresh and articulate after almost 40 years. There are few faults with the record, which works better as a whole than the sum of its parts, but unfortunately, the album isn’t particularly exciting or engaging. The varied sounds flow well together, but they have a tendency of washing over the listener rather than taking them along for the ride. The lyrics are often smart, funny and modern, rarely making Wire seem out of place in 2015.
It’s nice to hear what sounds like a record the band wanted to make, as opposed to the numerous classic rock acts that have haphazardly thrown albums together for an extra buck or another greatest hits tour. As a whole, “Wire” is quite good, but there are few moments that stand out as particularly special or groundbreaking.
Upcoming Wire gigs
Apr 22: Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, UK
Apr 23: The Kazimier, Liverpool, UK
Apr 24: The Trades Club, Hebden Bridge, UK
Apr 26: Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, UK
Apr 27: King Tuts, Glasgow, UK
Apr 28: Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, UK
Apr 29: Manchester Academy 3, Manchester, UK
Apr 30: The Fleece, Bristol, UK
May 26: Dantes, Portland OR, USA
May 27: Neumos, Seattle WA, USA
May 29: Slim’s, San Francisco CA, USA
May 30: The Echoplex, Los Angeles CA, USA
Jun 02: The Sinclair, Cambridge MA, USA
Jun 03: Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY, USA
Jun 04: Bowery Ballroom, New York NY, USA
Jun 05: Union Transfer, Philadelphia PA, USA
Jun 06: Black Cat, Washington DC, USA
Jun 07: Mr. Smalls Theatre, Millvale PA, USA Book tickets
Jun 08: Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland OH, USA Book tickets
Jun 09: Majestic Theatre, Detroit MI, USA Book tickets
Jun 10: Headliners, Louisville KY, USA Book tickets
June 11: DRILL : CHICAGO, The Hideout, Chicago, USA Book tickets
June 12: DRILL : CHICAGO, Thalia Hall, Chicago, USA Book tickets
June 13: DRILL : CHICAGO, The Metro, Chicago, USA Book tickets