In the latest issue of the English magazine The Wire, who dedicates a well-seen cover to this homonymous group, Colin Newman explains the secret of Wire’s longevity: “We’ve never been a bunch of friends, we haven’t socialized so much outside of work.” It’s dry and pithy, like the tense music of these art-punk veterans has always been, but it has the merit of not mixing affect and swelling storytelling with their electric frolics. Admittedly, since their first album in 1977, the English quartet has divorced twice (between 1980 and 1985, then between 1992 and 2003), but if it has always ended up regaining its collective influx, it is precisely because of the absence of corrosion in its human wiring – despite the departure and then the return of the drummer, Robert Gray, in the 1980s, and the resignation of guitarist Bruce Gilbert in 2004.
Mind Hive, Seventeenth album on the counter, further demonstrates their astonishing greenness, when most of their promo colleagues from the years 1977-1979 feed nostalgic tours at best, at worst obituaries. “It’s nothing new”, these are the words that start Be Like Them, severely pounded by a metallic guitar, but we know as every time that Wire reinvents itself in nuances, in microvariations and subtle chromatic changes, especially since the integration of the youngster Matthew Simms and his riffs in reptilian drones which occupy amply ‘space. The group always has a few more pop rabbits out of the hat (here Cactused or Off the beach) to better encircle them with pieces with slow combustion, the almost psychedelic unrepentant or the almost eight stormy minutes of Hung this propensity to create thermal shocks has always been their registered sound mark. Graham Lewis, blunt bass player and rather ardent lyricist (his models are named Thomas Pynchon and JG Ballard) has taken hold of the bellicose vibrations which have been spinning in the atmosphere in recent years to give even more heat to their magma, the song by Colin Newman, like an electrocuted Bryan Ferry, adapting particularly well to these high temperatures (Oklahoma).
By also re-injecting more synthetic sounds with less clumsiness than in the early 90s (justly unloved Manscape or The Drill), Wire recovers in passing the hand on the whole of a musical spectrum which begins to constitute one assembly among the most impressive in the history of English rock. Because they have had the flair of managing themselves for twenty years now via their Pinkflag label – including for the exciting reissues, two years ago, of their legendary catalog originally published by EMI – Wire can continue obstinately and without parasitic influence this admirable trajectory, which does not seem to want to find an epilogue. With albums of such poise, this is pretty good news.
Wire Mind Hive (Pinkflag / Differ-Ant). In concert on May 13 at La Maroquinerie, 75020.