Object 47

Always a band with a keen aesthetical sensibility, Wire deal in shapes, angles, and colours, be it in their elegant artwork, writing tracks about map references, playing wilfully obscure live performances or, crucially, turning punching, amphetamine chords into songs-as-pictures. From Pink Flag onwards, Wire constructed their music by stripping the flab from the rock ‘n’ roll archetype, delicately picking apart the bare bones, and effecting a piecemeal reconstruction into something entirely new, yet still with a recognisable structural form. Now, they retrieve this unique sound from storage in protective grease for Object 47, their best album in years.

On first instance, you might imagine that the departure of founder member Bruce Gilbert would have put a spanner in the works, but if anything can be gleaned from listening to Object 47, it’s that Wire as a three piece seem to have on one hand greater focus, but on the other, more room to manoeuvre.

Last year’s excellent Read & Burn 03 EP hinted at this, but it’s Object 47 that sees Wire exploring more varied sonic territories than at any point since the late 1970s. The first three seminal Wire albums were always about texture and a startling rate of progress from one to the next, but each existed within its own defined limits – the staccato of Pink Flag, for instance, can become repetitive. Of course Object 47 still feels undeniably Wire: there’s the title, for a start, or the sleeve artwork depicting an abstract of the austere white concrete of what looks like a water tower against a hard blue sky. Colin Newman’s trademark sarcastic whine, tempered by age and the use of effects, now makes him sound like the kind of bloke who’d take great delight catapulting snails over the fence into the neighbour’s lettuce patch in the middle of the night. The music is, as ever, built from the brilliant rhythm section of Robert Grey and Graham Lewis, Colin Newman’s ferociously attacked guitars, and what the sleeve credits describe as the manipulation of "various". So that’s the technical blueprint, listen as Wire analyse, dissect, and reinterpret.

It opens with ‘One Of Us’ a perfect example of one of those pop songs (see also ‘Outdoor Miner’, ‘I Am The Fly’, ‘The 15th’) which Wire have always inserted among the more awkward moments of their albums. Indeed, it’s surely a sign of confidence that ‘One Of Us’, with its cheerful Lewis bassline and an exuberant chorus of “one of us will probably live to rue the day we met each other”, is despatched so quickly – for it all gets much more difficult after that. ‘Circumspect’ is well named, cautious and misty and superbly juxtaposed with the nasty buzz of ‘Mekon Headman’ that follows. ‘Mekon Headman’ is a typical Wire track, even the layers of distortion arranged with the meticulous intent of an engineer turning intricate plans into titanium spot welds that’ll stand the tribulations of floating thousands of miles above the earth. ‘Perpex Icon’ follows a similar theme, but with Newman’s distorted vocals and a reedy guitar part immersed in the buzz. ‘Hard Currency’ deploys scattering beats, processed electronic stabs and vocals, cranking up the menace – “I’m taking the early train / so we can be together” Newman sneers. You’d be forgiven for being wary of meeting him on the platform.

Where Wire once used guitars for clipped, intelligent minimalism that made a mockery of the more idiotic tendencies of the punks, Object 47 sees them flex their potential with a confidence not seen from the band in over a quarter of a century. “Are you an also ran, finished and inconsequential?” sings Newman on ‘One Of Us’. On the evidence of Object 47, this is not a question he needs to ask of himself.

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