Album Review: Wire Red Barked Tree

By Graham Reid

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Cover of the Wire album Red Barked Tree. Photo / Supplied
Cover of the Wire album Red Barked Tree. Photo / Supplied

Rating: 4/5
Verdict: The old gang is back, and conjuring up their very best in a new way

In the late 70s Wire delivered a trifecta of classic post-punk, minimalist and arty albums - Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154 - then called it a day. In subsequent decades they reformed, dropping drummer Robert Gotobed to appear as an alt.electro-rock outfit (not much cop).

In the past decade their sound became more aggressive and impressive, Gotobed returned - and now Bruce Gilbert is out.

This incarnation of Wire refers back to that classic period for its elemental minimalism (the aural deja vu of A Flat Tent) and brevity of songs (only one of the 11 here passes five minutes, four under three). But there now is a streamlined sheen, and the opener Please Take ("your knife out of my back") is close to first-phase Roxy Music or early Eno. Later Adapt and Bad Worn Thing are cut from similar cloth, and Clay is a relentless dark pop delivered over increasingly noisy guitar.

But - aside from disconcerting lyrics throughout which are droll and sometimes sharply witty - there are blasts of their more recent musical menace here too: Two Minutes is mad but disciplined guitar thrash; Moreover and Smash are crafted Erasehead-grind metallic pop; the brooding Down to This rides on electrostatic and repeated guitar and keyboard phrases.

Smart, sharp, approachable and economic, Wire again give art-rock a very good name.

-TimeOut / elsewhere.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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