After a four year hibernation Wire have returned with a new addition to the Read & Burn series. Expect a new full length album sometime next year.
Read & Burn 03
[Pink Flag; 2007]
Wire are right where they want to be. Thirty years after their debut album kicked off a brilliant initial run of three albums, they're respected and independent enough to work free of the usual recording industry constraints, taking all the time they want to work on side projects and let their ideas form fully before committing anything to tape. This essentially ensures that anything they release under the Wire aegis will be at least worthy of the name, and the only pressure to produce is self-imposed.
How patient have they been? It's hard to believe it's been five years since Wire released the first two Read & Burn EPs, which were partially compiled in 2003 on the Send album in the U.S. Those EPs mostly ignored the innovative but sometimes unsatisfying electronic music Wire had made during its first reunion, from 1986 to 1991, returning instead to the bracing immediacy and brevity of their earliest music, but with a decidedly modern sound. Read & Burn 03 is something quite different altogether for Wire, a 25-minute EP with four songs that don't seem much like anything they've ever done.
The production here feels close to the first two Read & Burn volumes, but it's used to much different ends. Opener "23 Years Too Late" is nearly 10 minutes long and balances contrasting spoken and sung sections. The spoken sections are dominated by a warm, rounded synthesizer that slowly oscillates behind deep-voiced, poetic intonations-- on the whole, they sound like a British documentarian sucked back to the beatnik era. The sung portions are more what we've come to expect from Wire v.3.0, with a slapping drum part, gurgling bass line, and strangely processed guitars that cushion Colin Newman's layered vocals from the rhythm. The song eventually slips into an ambient coda descended from the band's earlier textural experiments on 1979's 154 and some of their late-80s albums.
The other three songs feel slightly more familiar. "Our Time" is late-period Wire in slow motion, with the drums and bass holding down a crawling tempo as Newman's vocal squirms under a blanket of effects and guitars seesaw through the mix. On "No Warning Given", the tempo is back up for an ultra-deadpan Newman delivery fringed by a cloud of ambient and guitar, which hardens on the chorus. The sonic details are interesting, with Robert synthGotobed's ride cymbal and snare drum becoming clearer when the rest of the instruments begin to bleed together into a wash. The final song, "Desert Driving", uses a basic loud/soft dynamic, with melodic bass in the verses and grinding guitar in the chorus, though Newman's vocal remains even throughout.
Throughout the disc, there's a curious lack of treble-- most of the sound is mid-range with a reasonably thick bass presence-- and it gives the record a very odd character while somewhat hindering its dynamic range. It's not quite Wire at their best, but it's an interesting expansion of their range, which, if word from the band is to be believed, isn't necessarily a sign of things to come. They've claimed none of these songs will appear on the next Wire album, which should be just over the horizon. That's good, because I prefer Wire unpredictable and willing to follow an idea almost anywhere.
-Joe Tangari, November 16, 2007