Wire - Red Barked Tree

by Steve Reynolds Rating:8 Release Date:2011-01-10

In times of austerity, the musical cream should always rise to the top and it's time for original post-punkers Wire to show their colours once more. Their legacy is infamous and their debut, Pink Flag, is still hugely influential on today's plethora of British guitar bands. Their stop/start jerky sound and their petulance towards playing the system and unwillingness to perform their hits live have endeared them as a band firmly listed under CULT.

Following on from some fine live gigs at the back end of 2010 they return with a fresh impetus on new long player Red Barked Tree. Minus original member Bruce Gilbert, who called time on the band in 2004, and held together by the acerbic and downtrodden lyrics of Graham Lewis, their belligerent dark pastiche of modern life still continues to amaze. Lewis still wants to kick against the pricks in a somewhat unhinged manner with opener 'Please Take', littered with a vitriol of "Please take your knife out of my back/Fuck off out of my face".

Thirty-three years ago when, Pink Flag was released, Wire were cutting edge avant-garde and unique. Unfortunately for them, the rest of the guitar world has caught up with them to a certain extent and although it's no slight on their style, they haven't tried to re-invent themselves and rely on their edgy lyrics and modern take on the world. 'Adapt' is an attack on all things worldly from child labour through to the ignorance of addressing climate change. It's a melancholy subject but the haunting backdrop and minimalist piano more than deliver. 'Two Minutes' does what it says as Newman spits bile and anger in a less than friendly manner. At times his spoken word is like ,Phil Daniels without all the cockney knees up bollocks. It all comes to an ending with Newman telling us "do you know who I hate on a daily basis?" No, Colin, we don't but that's a huge amount of anger for a man in his 50s.

'Bad Worn Thing' is a cocktail of our beloved British transport system ("the overcrowded nature of things") and the backdrop of the sex trade in our capital city, all held together but a trademark Wire bass, which throbs along with a significant amount of horse power. 'Moreover' is one of the standout tracks on the album, resplendent with a rasping riff and masked in Tannoy-esque vocals. I cant make out the thread of the song but - what the hell? - it certainly rocks like Gibraltar and the last 30 seconds is just awash with guitar noise. Bloody lovely.

Wire were never ones to have elongated songs and at times delivered songs less than 30 seconds long. However, they close the show with the album title track weighing in at a hazy five and a half minutes. The closer is a melancholy affair which captures an acoustic guitar while speaking of searching for the red bark tree in the metaphoric term. It's a world apart from the standard Wire song being verse/chorus/verse. Its a fine way to close a very solid and inspiring album which is sharp, witty and exceedingly listenable.

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