[sic] Magazine

Wire – Object 47

I should declare conflict of interest here. Actually that isn’t quite accurate. I stand neither to lose nor gain financially from reviewing Wire but I do have a 30-year relationship with their music, which renders me somewhat less than objective. At least you know.

Wire first seduced me in the late 70’s. There is simply no argument against a song like ‘Map Ref 41°N 93°W’ except deafness, crass stupidity or willful lack of musical taste. It has the best chorus of all time and they knew it. With their bittersweet blend of muscular rhythm and melodic pop sensibilities Wire were so beautiful it hurt. And yet it was I who ended the relationship. Feeling cheated, betrayed almost, that not every song was as accessible as ‘Map Ref’ or ‘Outdoor Miner’, I broke it off. (I was young, what can I say?) They tempted me back of course. When they returned in the late 80’s with The Ideal Copy and the stunning A Bell is a Cup Until It’s Struck I fell for them like an old girlfriend where the attraction never really went away.

Then they left me.

Lately Wire have been sniffing around once again. Knocking on my door with Send and now banging it down with Object 45. But should we give these dinosaurs, these relics from a bygone age, any of our precious time to listen to and appreciate their latest work? I’ve given this a lot of thought but the answer is always, ‘fuck, YES’. Wire invented “now”. Wire were always ahead . Wire were post-punk WHILE they were punks. Wire gave birth to the best of Britpop (Blur, Elastica….), invented Art rock and have forgotten more about angular agit-pop than most of the current crop of wannabe’s (Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand et all) are ever likely to know. Of all the original punk/post-punk acts only Magazine and PIL bear comparison.

The joy of Wire, their longevity, is probably down to their gift of melody. Wire always managed to wrap their doctrine in delightful pop. Take ‘Perspex Icon’ as a case in point – another in a long line of hum-able Wire gems. Here frontman Colin Newman is in his ‘tender’ mode. (He wears many guises.) It’s light, it’s airy and it’s as infectious as a bad dose of something unspeakable. (Just be sure to have fun catching it.) The beauty of Newman is his sheer wordsmithery. Not solely a love of language or even just words. This guy is a master of pronunciation. Every syllable is relished in his unmistakable mockney. Listening to Newman is like having your pocket picked by the Artful Dodger.

Sadly everything isn’t quite so stellar. This band doesn’t resort to filler but the weaker songs here do feel as though they were knocked out rather easily. The Wire formula, tried and tested as it is, must still guard against complacency. So for me the album dips somewhat on ‘Hard Currency’ and ‘Patient Flees’. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a paid-up, card-carrying Newmaniod but here he sounds too arch – too knowing. We miss the menacing presence of guitarist Bruce Gilbert to counterweight Newman’s mischievous brilliance.

I cannot claim to decipher every Wire lyric but Object 47 seems to be a rallying denouement of property and consumerism. Are Wire situationalists? We cannot be certain and we cannot even ask. They’re notorious contrarians. (They’d deny it, naturally). Anyone left in any doubt about the 2008 model Wire would be advised to skip directly to ‘All fours’ where Newman excels yet again. This time he’s in rant mode. If Radiohead gave us ‘Paranoid Android’, ‘All Fours’ must be Wire’s Hysterical Dalek with added migraine (and all the better for it) A classic Wire track! Worth the album price alone and then some.

So is it “art or artifice” – the new compact disc by the legendary Wire? This band has always been, and will always be, challenging, provocative and far too clever for our own good. Even off-colour, they’re more than a match for today’s artists. So we’ll declare the 47th object of Wire’s enviable discography: ‘Art’.