10:20 is Wire’s second album to come out this year. It was initially intended as a Record Store Day release, but for obvious reasons plans changed. Of the eight tracks collected here, some are re-recordings/re-imaginings of stray b-sides while other songs had only ever been presented in the band’s live sets
“Boiling Boy” opens the record with a disco beat and unusually cheery, dual, reverb-heavy guitar leads whose notes soon take an idiosyncratic turn toward the dark and mysterious, a tone more commonly associated with the band. At nearly six and a half minutes, the track is comparatively long for Wire. Halfway in, drummer Robert Grey hammers a snare into the mix and a distorted guitar drives the entire thing home. “German Shepherds” helps keep things moving tempo-wise as the band revisits a song that first appeared on their 1989 collection IBTABA, presented here with some altered lyrics and somewhat sunnier production. “He Knows” builds tension nicely as Colin Newman sings in an appropriately tense higher register before sharing a chorus with Graham Lewis that has the men repeating, “We’re hypnotized, with all your love.”
The record’s lone purely punk moment arrives with “Underwater Experiences”. In just over two minutes, over a back and forth laser-like synth and a propulsive bass drum, Newman handily replicates the anxious energy and angry precision he displayed during key moments on the group’s debut over forty years ago. The track works as a smart sequencing choice as it nicely breaks up 10:20’s first and second half.
“The Art of Persistence” is an excellent track from Wire’s past recaptured. The song initially appeared on The Third Day EP in 2000. The band’s latest interpretation feels brighter and smoother with clean, distinct transitions throughout, helping to render it nearer to pop than post-punk production-wise. In both tempo and tone, 10:20’s penultimate track, “Wolf Collides”, feels appropriately like a winding down and sets things up nicely for the record’s ender. Originally appearing on Wire’s fourth studio album, The Ideal Copy, the 1987 version of “Over Theirs” was peppier but significantly thinner sounding compared to the slowed down, beefed up version presented here. At a running time of just under nine minutes, 10:20 goes out the way it came in, with an uncharacteristically long track that’s nearly twice the length of its original version.
If there’s anything lacking on 10:20, it’s Graham Lewis’ vocal contributions. Purists may insist they prefer the original versions of these songs, but others could just as easily argue that the updated production and changes made to these tracks render them so different from their forbears that preference of one iteration over the other is like comparing apples to oranges. What would be difficult for any Wire fan to argue is that these songs, although from different times in the band’s career, don’t work well when sequenced and presented as they are here. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.