Wire - Red Barked Tree

They’ve stepped up and allowed the music speak for itself.

Wire always have been and always will be one of the least cool cool bands. They’re not The Clash or Crass, but they’re still one of those influential punk bands that churned out decent music back in the day. They’re not pretenders and their sound is their own.

While this latest effort doesn’t wear the attitude possessed on ‘Mannequin’ or the anger in ‘Heartbeat’, it has its own softer, more layered approach. It’s closer to their later stuff, but don’t take that as a comparison - it’s still a mile away from it. What they’ve laid on us here with ‘Red Barked Tree’ is something completely new, at least for them. It’s still them, but they’ve grown up and have a more mature anger, a more eloquent platform.

It may leave a few fans longing for their aforementioned more riotous days, but this is a good album. In fact, it’s a great album, if you can get over the fact it’s been made by your third favourite punk band. This is a kind of intelligent rock that, with its twangly guitars, ebbing songs and slowed down feel brings to mind more of the Australian indie scene, where the likes of Smudge, The Givegoods and The Puddle are more of an influence. Take opener ‘Please Take’ for example - the drugged out slow but consistent beat is akin to The Givegoods’ relaxed style found across the album ‘I Want To Kill A Rich Man’, but with more structure to it, with its gentle drifting in and out of chorus and verse.

The key thing to take from this is that ‘Red Barked Tree’ doesn’t sound like a Wire album. Their attempt at recreating their punk sound, ‘Two Minutes’, sounds too complex and well made, with the droning voice kicking in about halfway through over the top of Newman’s spoken, Fall-esque vocals. It even starts off with white noise crashing into guitars, but the production forces it away from being true pure punk - this is self conscious intelligent punk.

Really this album could be seen one of two ways. Some people will say it’s punk for people who grew up with punk; it’s punk that’s been slowed down and purified, while others will say it’s dulled down punk, punk for people who don’t know what punk is. We see it as the former - this is music that still has the attitude, but releases it in a less ramshackle way than we’re used to. Instead of recording it in some dingy studio with minimal equipment, they’ve stepped up and allowed the music speak for itself. And it’s paid off. Wire have not only shown to us that they’re still relevant and still possess the attitude, they’ve also shown us that they’re fucking good musicians and composers on top of it.

Tags: Wire People, Wire, The High Wire, Black Wire, Reviews, Album Reviews

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