Wire - Silver/Lead
Released on the band’s 40th anniversary of their live debut at The Roxy Club, Silver/Lead is Art Punk rockers Wire’s 15th studio album. From their 1977 debut, Pink Flag, through their various break ups, reformations, and mutations of style, Wire have been a massively influential band with the likes of Blur, Sonic Youth, and more recently Parquet Courts and Savages citing the four piece as key in their formation. Since their latest re-collaboration, Wire have been on a streak of great albums from 2013’s Change Becomes Us, 2015’s self titled effort, and last year’s mini album Nocturnal Koreans. So, does Silver/Lead carry on this winning streak?
Musically, Wire have always been a group that has strived to keep their sound fresh and to not rest on their laurels, their latest album is no different. Building on the drone aspects of Nocturnal Koreans, Silver/Lead widens the soundscape and polishes it up barely allowing any element of silence to exist, whether that’s from a keyboard drone or squally guitar feedback. The album is littered with the rigid rhythm and the metallic minimalist drum clangs that the quartet are known for, which is overlaid by angular fuzz guitar riffs that grind a route through the album. Although Colin Newman’s vocals have now graduated from punky yelp to a cross between Bernard Sumner and Tim Burgess croon. Highlights include opener ‘Playing Harp For The Fishes’, the breakneck ‘Short Elevated Period’, the art pop shimmy of ‘Diamonds in Cups’, and ‘This Time’, echoing lost late era Britpop.
The issue lies in the polished drone, hampered further by the mostly mid-tempo numbers, it feels like it struggles to shift up gears until the album abruptly ends leaving the listener expecting more. This is by no means bad as there are strong tracks on show, and new innovations from the band - the jazzy rhythm of ‘Sleep On The Wing’ - are also worth noting. It also feels like the sneery wordplay that Wire fans are used seems to have been toned down, but there are the odd sideways smirk to be had - “I was hoping for Heaven/ But I’d settle for Hell”. Thankfully though, overall it feels like a band having a temporary breather before another big push rather than one on their last legs.