Wire is well respected in the music world, and with due reason. Over the past 40 years they have been pioneering new styles, paving the way for many new branches of sound, and with that, releasing an extensive discography. The band has been on the frontlines of many major scenes since their days as a punk outfit, and has continued on that experimental course. Their past two releases (Wire and Nocturnal Koreans) put them on another course, but in different manner than before. The new member, Matthew Simms, created a slight nuance that has resonated throughout since, and they also changed up their recording techniques (using the studio rather than just recording the band). This all has led to their latest release, Silver/Lead.
The album begins with “Playing Harp For The Fishes,” and it is a common Wire structure of that anticipatory, noisy yet soft, style that creates motion for moody lyrics. Then the beat and mood are picked up slightly with the next track “Short Elevated Periods.” Their style of art-punk bleeds through, but with the vocal styles they picked up after their first hiatus (1980-85). Unfortunately, the album drops off there, and the next six tracks drag on sonically and lyrically. Each track still offers something to listen to that isn’t bland, but accumulatively the lull in energy and mood get to be too much. Thankfully, something happens in the last two tracks. In “Sleep On The Wing” the lyrics become more intricate and thoughtful, as do the rest of the vocals and instruments. It is a blend of attributes they picked up over the late 80’s early 90’s; a serenely energetic track with reverb, delay, airy synths, reverse sustain, and an upbeat jazz-style drum arrangement. “Silver Lead” is gloomy, but the instruments prevail. It is has a build that comes on ever so softly and has an ethereal quality – an emotionally driven track that has a sense of awe to it.
This album seems as if Wire has stopped to take a breath while thinking of where to go next, meditating on how they got where they are currently, but still making music in the meantime. They have made a trend for themselves that pushes them to go further, faster, and in a different direction than their most recent position and adversaries. They are boasted to be one of the important founders of post-punk, and one can hear this brooding process of growth in Pink Chair, Chairs Missing, and 154. That tangent of growth was a constant. Their post-hiatus releases have been tantamount to this, sounding drastically different after short gaps, but they kept certain stylistic nuances, and carried them with them to this day. Their most recent tangent started with Wire, and hopefully the process seen throughout their career will repeat. Silver/Lead is at best just another album that is in the line of what is to come next.