Back at the dawn of the first wave of English punk in the late 70’s, London collective Wire signalled their arrival on the musical landscape with three astounding albums of eclectic genius. Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154 are rightfully regarded as post-punk classics, delivering a thrilling hybrid of minimalist art-punk, off kilter, twisting pop songs and moody, electro tinged soundscapes.
By the time the early 80’s rolled around the band were a fractured unit, with fourth album Document and Eyewitness delivering experimental sketches of songs in progress, performed live by a unit in the throes of self imploding.
This was not the end though, with the band able to move beyond and re-invent themselves more than once across the continuation of their career, their sound never stagnating in watered down repetition or familiarity while exploring such disparate genres as electronic pop and industrial tinged sheet metal punk.
Fast forward to the present day, with most recent Wire record Change Becomes Us re-examining some of the originally maligned Document and Eyewitness tracks. And to the band’s credit they have done a stellar job in re-imagining these original templates into a cohesive whole that acts as a worthy and contemporary follow up to their well received 2011 album Red Barked Tree.
Opening track Doubles & Trebles, a re-work of the track Ally in Exile, smoothes out the original’s spikier, under-produced vibe and brings the track kicking and screaming into the present day, without removing the chugging, atonal menace inherent at the heart of the song.
The band still have the ability to confound and delight after all these years, as evidenced here on the track Adore Your Island, which starts out with a stadium-rock sized bombastic riff, before a woozy vocal and abrupt tempo change return things to a more Wire-like equilibrium.
Stealth of a Stork delivers a faster, more abrasive vibe with a modern rock sheen, yet with a chorus still unmistakeably of the band’s hand.
Time Lock Fog and Magic Bullet are moody, keyboard driven numbers which wouldn’t be out of place on third album 154.
Meanwhile Eels Sang (an upate of the track Eels Sang Lino from Document and Eyewitness) updates the original’s rantingly playful, faux-funky no-wave template with a more measured musical and vocal delivery while still staying true to the soul of it’s original incantation.
It will no doubt be thrilling to see how the band treat these re-interpretations in the live setting, when they grace us with their presence at The Zoo, Fortitude Valley on Wednesday, 19 February. My recommendation – be there!