Eight new songs make up a new Wire album that in terms of studio construction seems to have much in common with their latter day zenith “Send” and its follow up, their latter day nadir “Object 47.” With a lighter touch than the darkness of “Send” this is closer to the bold and bright sound of “Object 47” and some of the earlier Githead tunes than their more recent albums, being recorded in the studio any witch way as opposed to being largely based on live performances of a four piece beat combo. Although there is nothing as heavy as my favourite song of 2015, the mighty “Harpooned,” overall I am enjoying this more than the album simply called “Wire” because it is more playful and adventurous and the lyrics are much more intriguing. Each song also has far more individuality. The highpoint for me is the final song, wherein Graham Lewis delivers his finest lead vocal since “Feed Me” collapsed the first side of “The Ideal Copy” nearly thirty years ago. Whilst musically “Fishes’ Bones” could be yet another endless remake of experimental touchstone “Drill,” the vocal is a silly Dome-like bit of daft ranting about chickens and back doors and mixing his metaphors counting rings in fishes’ bones. Perhaps this is a reflection upon aging? The song that presumably closes side one of the vinyl release recalls the private doom of “A Public Place.” Actually so similar is “Forward Position” in atmosphere and tempo that I keep expecting Bruce Gilbert’s abrasive rhythmic guitar clanks to juxtapose the desolate melody but of course they never do. When Colin Newman ponderously croons “From my room and long forgotten,” for the first couple of listens I thought he was singing, “From my room in Longford Garden.” However he wasn’t name checking the park on the Chorlton and Stretford border in Manchester, near where I live. This wouldn’t be so far fetched as Colin lived in Chorlton years ago. The opening ditty about “Nocturnal Koreans” was debuted in a slower form two British tours back. It has now been considerably tightened up and delivers what is presumably a metaphorical reflection upon the international isolation of North Korea. The word capable doesn’t scan with the tune so Wire lost a cap and did do some bad grammar, with Colin singing, “Do you think you are able of finding your way?” That’s about as rock’n’roll as the nocturnal numbers get until the start of the second side when Colin references the “Pink Flag” song that britpap abominations Elastica raped singing, “Still willing to rhumba,” on the urgent “Numbered.” The upbeat song after that “Still” has fuck all to do with Joy Division and actually sounds rather like a robotised Guided By Voices trying to play Indians with Githead. “Pilgrim Trade” has a rolling beat that is very “Object 47” sucking cash out of pockets, air out of lungs and documents the worship of a triangular man. Who could that be? Maybe someone on TV. “Fishes’ Bones” have no TV and march into “Internal Exile.” This second song on the album is Wire at their lightest and brightest, a very optimistic tune that is better than the old “Send” reject it lyrically references, “Trash/Treasure.” Inside “Internal Exile” are some very synthetic sounding trumpets with no pot to piss in. “An idle glance absorbs the terror.” But no, this is not Stiff Little Fingers or the Undertones cod soulboyism; neither is it as tasteful as the cor anglais on “A Mutual Friend.” The third song is the one I’ll mention last as it seems to throw up a good line with witch to end this review. Colin sings the verse of unlikely pathways and Graham sings the chorus about retrieving lost chapters from a distant forest on “Dead Weight” but don’t expect “German Shepherds” or serious snakes. Even if you can glide like butterflies you’ll be dead waiting for animals like that.
“Nocturnal Koreans” see the light of day on April 22nd.