Just when you might have been worried that Wire's reemergence
in the early 00's, rejuvenated and reenergized as a gleaming,
harder-edged update of their art-rock beginnings, was over, fear
no more - here is a new instalment of the Read & Burn
series begun in 2002. It's another progression in the artistic
journey that began in the late '70s and made Wire into one of
the most innovative, influential and revered groups of the post
punk movement; the music builds onto the structure of the band's
21st century redesign while also harking back to their older work,
particularly that from their second phase in the late eighties.
Read & Burn 03 is only a four-song taster in preparation
for an upcoming album, but the brevity of the work is made up
for by its power and range. The first song, "23 Years Too
Late", is a nearly ten-minute epic that sets the scene admirably.
An icy synth and doomy bass begin the piece, over which Graham
Lewis' plummy tones begin to recite a tale of trans-European
debauchery. The verse ends with the assertion that the events
described are ".... twenty-three years ... late", at
which point Colin Newman's Sarf London bark kicks in the
chorus and the music accelerates by several gears, driven by Robert
Gotobed's trademark metronomic drums and a burnished, humming
guitar sound, with the power and smoothness of a Bentley engine,
that's immediately familiar from recent works like "In the
Art of Stopping" and "??????". The contrast between
verse and chorus is a genius dynamic trick that propels the story
through several more chapters, making it seem to come to an end
much sooner than in reality.
After such an immediately epic beginning it's a little difficult
to treat the other three songs as equals, but give them a few
listens and all of them will reveal their strengths. All three
have that polished but relentless sound of the latest Wire incarnation,
but the song structures and melodies are strongly reminiscent
of pieces like "Finest Drops" or "German Shepherds",
from the group's earlier rebirth (hard to believe that it is nearly
twenty years ago now, and the best part of thirty since Wire made
those incredible first three albums that would cement their place
in music history).
To address the songs individually: "Our Time" is a
lumbering but melodic chugger that reminds strongly of "Lowdown"
from the incredible first album Pink Flag; "No Warning
Given" is much more melodic and bears the strongest resemblance
to the 1980's Wire Mark 2, although with some phenomenally intense
live drumming replacing the drum machines and loops of yore (Gotobed
nearly left the group for good back then, frustrated with his
diminishing role). The final "Desert Diving" is moody
and abstract, but with compelling lyrics, more great drumming,
and a great echoing guitar line that makes you want to cue the
track back up as soon as it's finished.
Unlike the songs from the first two Read & Burns,
most of which made their way onto the more widely available Send
album, none of Read & Burn 03 will appear on the upcoming
Wire record. Judging by the quality of the songs here and the
overall impression that this is a real live collaboration between
all four Wire members (including Bruce Gilbert, who I forgot
to mention up until now), the new album should be a 2008 landmark;
yet another in the continuing evolution of one of the most consistently
inventive, and downright brilliant, groups on the planet.
(If it's too late or too expensive to order the CD, all of
the EP is accessible online at the PostEverything site.)
e-mail the chief
Like this article?
it to a friend!