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Wire, "Object 47"

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cover imageNever a band to stagnate, Wire have consistently reinvented themselves with each and every release in their long career.  This new disc puts them in an interesting situation, given that they have been reduced to a trio with the departure of guitarist Bruce Gilbert.  This is a similar situation to the post-Manscape era, when Robert Grey (then Gotobed) left the band.  That time, however, they became Wir and released material that, while sharing parallels to Wire, had a different feel entirely.  In some ways, perhaps they should have done something similar with this album because, though it is a wonderful work with few shortcomings, it doesn't FEEL quite like Wire.

 

Pink Flag

Back when they were Wir for The First Letter and Vien, it felt like a different beast entirely.  Although they had been increasingly flirting with electronic instrumentation and programming, these two works were built most heavily on that.  Both of them also took a couple listens to grow on me, while most of the quartet form of Wire’s work was instantly loved.  Object 47 has been the same for me, as when I first heard it I definitely had mixed feelings.  While a couple tracks stood out immediately as brilliant, others felt a bit out of character for the band.  As a whole, it felt just a bit too “pop.”  Not that Wire would ever shy away from making pop music—one only has to hear “Map Ref 41°N 93°W” or “Eardrum Buzz” to know that’s not the case—but material like that usually had a more difficult, edgy counterpoint to balance.  For an album with “Mr. Marx’s Table” there was a “99.9” to just keep things a bit out of the norm.  That is not the case here.

It continues the sonic trend that Read and Burn 03 started late last year, sort of the modernized A Bell Is A Cup to compliment Send’s updated Pink Flag digital thrash.  There is a floaty, ethereal feel to a lot of these tracks that characterized much of their 1980s output.  But, even on the EP, which was also sans Gilbert, there was the near-10 minute “23 Years Too Late” that kept things a bit enjoyably obtuse.  Object 47 consists of nine tracks that all clock in at an average of four minutes.  Not really overly oblique or difficult at all. 

I do not want to come across as sounding overly critical though, because the album as a whole is most definitely brilliant and worthy of multiple listens, it’s just “different.”  The opener “One Of Us,” which was released earlier this year as a free MP3 download, is an earworm slab of pop genius.  Bolstered by a rhythm section that was most likely inspired by the DFA folks, it chugs along on a sharp neo-disco beat and a distorted bass line, with a chorus that is as catchy and memorable as any the band has produced in their 31 year career.

Graham Lewis’ increased vocal presence compared to Send is also greatly appreciated, and does give the disc a more Wire feel than it probably would without him.  His swarthy delivery of the questions that make up the lyrics of “Are You Ready?” definitely recall the classic “Ambitious” from many albums ago.  “Four Long Years” even gives a subtle nod to the Wir era, a mid-paced electronic based piece that feels more than a bit danceable.  The album closer “All Fours” is the closest concession to difficult that the disc makes, its darker tone and angry Colin Newman vocals put it a bit more towards the Send side of the spectrum, a bit more raw than the preceding lighter material, but it’s no “Crazy About Love.”

Object 47 is a great pop album.  It makes no concessions to the mainstream and is quite obviously the product of Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, and Robert Grey.  However, it is pretty clear that the guy who was keen to throw the monkey wrench in a few tracks and increase the esotericness that was always enjoyable was Bruce Gilbert, who is no longer here (in the band, at least).  It is an enjoyable disc that I have appreciated more and more with each listen, but the “feel” is just so different than most of the Wire discography.  Perhaps it should have been released as Wie or Wre or Ire, but obviously none of those monikers make sense or look good on paper.  With any other band I’d probably consider this one of the “Album of the Year” contenders, but given its context, I can’t make that statement, yet at least.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 06 July 2008 12:22  


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