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Wire

Read & Burn 03
Pink Flag
www.posteverything.com


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.)

-Gareth Bowles


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