Thing of the Day


January 5th 2011

Wire Red Barked TreeALBUM: WIRE – Red Barked Tree (Pink Flag)  - Twelfth studio album from one of the most important British bands of the last thirty or forty years or so, Colin Newman, Graham Lewis and Robert Grey are band still more than worthy of full attention. Red Barked Tree starts off in a rather smooth and dare we say polite manner with a mid-paced, rather easy-on-the-ear song called Please Take, and when second track Adapt kicks in with the expected art-rock spikiness, that Wire trademark spikiness is very very gentle.  This is all very easy on the ear, very smooth, perhaps an even mellower Wire than last time around. The first studio album for three years, and I guess the Pink Flag/ I Am The Fly/ Missing Chair declarations from back then are quite a few years ago now, and dare we say Clay sounds like middle age coffee table Blur? 

Wire as easy listening? Stealing ears and never flinching… Hang on, they’ve gone a bit Robert Calvert - never the overcrowded nature of things. Hang on a little more, Moreover sounds more like classic Wire awkwardness pushing forward,finding that new wave staccato stomp. I guess the problem with being so damn ground-breakingly influential is that hundreds of upstarts come along, take your sound and build on it – hard to stay ahead of your followers, tough to sound as fresh and exciting as you once did. How old are these guys now anyway? Moreover is urgent Wire, Moreover is kind of how you want Wire to still sound without ever being Wire by numbers. They lull you in with that early album mellowness and while there may not be chairs missing things aren’t as wired and Wirey and this does sound very very... produced, don’t you think? Over produced? 

Too smooth? Is it a pleasing sound? A pleasant sound? In other words, have “the undisputed originators of experimental postrock returned to demonstrate their skill in the genre they created over thirty years ago!”? The press release claims that “having virtually drawn the map of modern guitar effects, they are cited as heroes by such diverse acts as Fugazi, My Bloody Valentine, Black Flag, Guided By Voices, and Blur…”  and that is hard to argue with (well no, there’s lot to argue about, lots were doing it before them, but yes, they were an important part of the evoloution, part of a chain)... and did Colin Newman really describe the title track as sounding like The Pentangle?  Well it does sound a little English-folky actually. That album opening track will throw you off the scent a little, it is extremely relaxed and rather too well behaved.

Two Minutes has that motorik feel, but Red Barked Tree is not so much “the undisputed originators of experimental post rock returned”, but it is a more than decent enough new album from an influential new wave post punk band who are now rather middle aged and grown old with some kind of good grace. A very listenable, very pleasant album, a rather enjoyable album. And I did like Moreover, that’s as good as anything Wire shaped - did they just put that track on there to show they could if they wanted to? I guess it would be very easy for them to switch the Wire automatic pilot button and just churn out more of those things that would get in our ointment. It would be easy for them not to challenge themselves. The relative lack of new wave post punk energy certainly focuses us more on the lyrics. This is a good album, a well made graceful album, an older band who still have a challenge or two to issue to both us and themselves… 

The album is released on the band’s own Pink Flag label on January 10th; they play an in-store at London’s Rough Trade East (down Brick Lane), then head off for some January dates in Australia and new Zealand, before embarking on a UK tour that starts at the Komedia, Brighton, on February 1st, heads to the Scala in London on the 2nd, then off around the UK, on to mainland Europe and beyond… 

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