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This is an unusual move from one of the UK's most enduring alternative units. Gone are much of the angular, aggressive walls of searing confrontational guitar; in place is an atmospheric return to their mid-80s psychedelic pop pastures (albeit with much fuller production!) As with a band of this pedigree, you're not gonna feel too cheated as a mediocre Wire album is probably more challenging than 95% of the indie guitar brigade could ever wish to be. It's just a surprise that this is such a relatively restrained & mellow record. 'Two Minutes' kicks it out a bit harder but ultimately sounds like Prolapse doing a cover of 'Parklife'! What does that say to you? When they do provide the goods, they're almost back on classic ground. 'Clay' has lashings of swirling atmosphere and those taut, minimal guitars frame the distinctive robotic post-Floydian vocals beautifully. Basically this song fits nicely into the Wire "classic pop tune" mould with ease. I prefer it when they display a little bit of wistful tenderness. I definitely find my ears continually pricked by certain melodies & notable dynamic shifts throughout this album. Brett likes their harder, abrasive sound which is of course less apparent on 'Red Barked Tree' - although 'Moreover' amps it back up with a gruffer guitar sound just to prove they ain't gone completely soft. No band in the UK has matured yet retained dignity quite like these guys. You put this on next to the (awful) new Gang of Four album and you're listening to a stone cold classic in comparison!!
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- Red Barked Tree by Wire
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