In the 31 years since Wire first introduced themselves to the world with their intellectually unruly debut Pink Flag, they’ve undergone countless stylistic changes and three separate career eras. In the first, they crammed an entire decade’s worth of accomplishments into just three years, beginning with Pink Flag, accelerating toward experimentation and artiness with Chairs Missing, and culminating in an atmospheric and diverse masterpiece with 154. Nearly a decade later, Wire re-emerged with a streamlined, New Order-like sound and a few notable singles in “Ahead,” “Kidney Bingos” and “Eardrum Buzz.” And in phase three, the band brought an electro-industrial edge to their punk sneer with Send, with new musical feats following in Read & Burn 03 and the brand new effort Object 47.
Throughout each phase of Wire’s career, the group’s lineup has remained static, with Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, Bruce Gilbert and Robert Grey (Gotobed, if you will) playing essential roles in the group’s unpredictable evolution toward the present day. Marking yet another unexpected turn in the band’s ongoing metamorphosis, Object 47 marks the first Wire album not to include Gilbert, as he left the band after they released Send. As such, one might assume that this could have serious repercussions on the outcome of the record, and given that Gilbert was one of the biggest proponents of noise and experimentalism within the band, the sonic repercussions could have been great.
Something to remember as far as Wire is concerned, however, is that no two of the band’s records sound anything alike as it is, so one way or another, this wasn’t going to end up like Send, or Chairs Missing or Snakedrill. If anything, Object 47—named for being the 47th piece in the group’s discography—seems to return, if only slightly, to the melodicism of the group’s mid-`80s output, sharing common traits with albums like It’s Beginning To And Back Again and A Bell Is A Cup Until It Is Struck. Yet Object 47 carries with it pieces of everything the band’s done to date. There are dance-friendly bangers reminiscent of those on Send, as well as abstract pop songs like the more accessible moments on 154. So, while things have definitely changed, there are more than a few hints here to remind us that this is, very much, the same band…three-quarters of it anyhow.
Opening track “One of Us” is a strikingly catchy track, atmospheric and dense, yet melodic as ever, with Newman singing the infectious chorus “one of us will live to rue the day we met each other.” Slower and more weirdly graceful is the standout “Circumspect,” enmeshing distorted ambience with strangely catchy guitar riffs and a hazy vibe. A rapid-fire rush of single-note distorted guitar jabs kicks off the upbeat “Perspex Icon,” another fun and glossy gem, while “Four Long Years” has a moody trip-hop vibe, minus the hip-hop beats. And in the final third, the group takes us from gorgeously ringing sheets of guitar in “Patient Flees,” to the manic onslaught of distortion in “All Fours.”
Given that hardly anyone could have predicted what Object 47 might sound like, even with Gilbert still in the band, it’s reassuring to know that when it comes right down to it, Wire still has some rocking out to do. Neither their most polished album nor their most experimental, Object 47 nonetheless has the honor of being among their most enjoyable.
The Fall – The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Known as Country on the Click)
Wire – It’s Beginning to and Back Again
New Order – Get Ready
MP3: “One of Us”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.