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Waiting For A Sign Ben Graham , December 15th, 2014 14:15

Five years after 2009's Landing, Githead's fourth album picks up pretty much where they left off, with no noticeable discontinuity, but with a few new spins on their already seemingly perfected formula. A combination of the talents of Wire guitarist Colin Newman, Robin Rimbaud (Scanner) also on guitar and the rhythm section of Israeli post-punks Minimal Compact (Malka Spigel on bass and Max Franken on drums), each new Githead song, never mind album, feels like reinventing the wheel; it goes round and round just as smoothly as it ever did, but somehow it's different and there's always some new kink or refinement to enjoy.

Opening track 'Not Coming Down' has a lumbering funk grove somewhat at odds with the motorik propulsion we've come to expect from Githead, though the air of sinister detachment is still present, along with Newman's distinctive guitar sound, simultaneously chiming and chugging. It's nearly two minutes before Malka Spigel's vocal comes in, breathy and enigmatic; the lyric seemingly less about staying high in any euphoric sense than remaining above it all, observing from a distance, untouchable and uncorrupted. 'Bringing The Sea To The City' feels particularly resonant, given Wire's recent DRiLL festival here in Brighton- which also included Githead's return to the live stage- and it's a gorgeous slow pop song, melancholy and reflective, Spigel mentioning "homeless people in the centre- homeless futures in the centre," before adding optimistically on the hook "changes may come in the summer; turning to face the strange." This is the city as dream, the sea as the unconscious; rich with symbols to be interpreted and manipulated for tomorrows unknown.

Waiting For A Sign was apparently improvised live in the studio with nothing pre-written, so the temptation to interpret lyrics puts one more in the dubious position of amateur psychologist than literary critic. Nevertheless, as 'To Somewhere' finally brings the steady locomotive drive we've come to expect, its title inevitably suggests a journey and an ultimate destination, albeit one that remains unknown and perhaps undecided. And the lyric too conjures the trouvaille, the aimless urban walking of the Situationists in search of chance encounters, expecting history and meaning to reveal itself in the mundane. Perhaps this too is a metaphor for musical improvisation, as the guitars quietly wrestle each other, thrusting impatiently forward and pulling back, balancing excitement with calm meditation.

Newman finally takes the microphone on 'For The Place We're In', a haunted pulsebeat of a song, the lyrics typically, darkly evocative and ambiguous. The pair duet on the understated but fierce optimism of 'Air Dancing', which with its half-spoken verses, high summer slow pace, lazy melodies and quietly funky rhythms oddly makes me think of Big Audio Dynamite's 'Medicine Show,' though it really sounds nothing like it. 'Today' insinuates, woozy, rushing like water, like a dream about taking drugs rather than any actual physiological experience a pill could provoke. It's sometimes hard to believe that three of the four musicians making this bubbling, youthful music are on the cusp of their sixties, yet maybe age is in fact the key to the urgency expressed in lines like "today we might have lost the plot, sinking under options or better ways," and the answering "forgive yourself- don't lose yourself." While urging attention to the ever-passing moment, the song also recommends the walking of unexpected paths and the embracing of one's quixotic nature, promising that "with time it all becomes clear."

The concluding title track hits another addictive, neatly effortless groove and holds it for over six minutes, with Spigel's distorted vocals intoning almost indecipherably about anarchists and scooters and "exchanges too frank to mention." "Are you waiting for a sign?" in the chorus rings out clearly, and maybe the message is that such waiting is ultimately fruitless and wasteful; that life is slipping by and that the time for action- the only time- is now. Like Githead's unstoppable, beautifully heedless music, life continues ever forward. Don't lose yourself in reflections and projections, looking for directions, waiting for a sign that may never come. Speak, act; create in the moment, while you still can. You'll find, looking back, that the signs were there all along.

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