Album Review: Wire: Silver/Lead

by Oliver Brink on March 6, 2017

Another landmark release from the post-punk forefathers, Silver/Lead is a true treat for listeners new and old.

Any band that can keep it going for longer than 20 years deserves a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The relentless love and pursuit of enjoyment through music is no easy feat, and many bands live a flash-in-the-pan life for the most part. The bands that endure not only have to find ways to be fresh with changing trends, but also have be 100% true to themselves, which, in many cases, will alienate or polarize fans. Wire has now hit the 40 year mark since they first hit the English punk rock scene in 1977 with Pink Flag. Despite their aggressive beginnings, they shifted to a more atmospheric post rock genre, while still occasionally playing with punk staples, and their upcoming release Silver/Lead continues in this fashion.

The striking thing about Wire is how easy it is to get lost in their music. Songs blend in and out of each other in such a fashion that unless one is paying close attention to the track list, they might think they listened to one epic piece. In fact, upon my first listen, I had to double check the actual track listing (regardless of the fact that I had already seen it) to verify this conclusion. There’s an otherworldly feeling to the sonic fusion of guitars and synthesizer and when the cryptic vocals enter the mix that feeling becomes almost psychedelic.

While I am not advocating the use of illicit substances, I can definitely say that Silver/Lead is one that lends quite a desire to listen while under the influence of various psychotropics. The first track on the album, “Playing Harp For The Fishes”, sets a tone that follows throughout that led me to the previous conclusion. Standouts include “Short Elevated Period”, which could be a punk rock song if it were about 20bpm faster, but still retains a gritty edge; the brooding “Sonic Lens” which paints a picture of apathetic isolation; and “Diamonds in Cups”, with its amalgamation of alt-rock 90s fuzz and western full-chord twang.

The downside of being in a band for 40 years is that unless you continue to innovate, your music can get repetitive. There are not many bands, if any, that have ever overcome this hurdle. Admittedly, a number of my favorite bands like the Cure, Bad Religion, Depeche Mode, etc. have had as many misses as they have hits, and Wire is not immune to this. The good news is that for a first time listener, Silver/Lead is a great collection of songs that blur the lines of atmospheric shoegaze and dark post-punk music. The production of the album is lush, to say the least, and a treat for the ears.

The 40th anniversary of the band is a significant mark on their London (and now Los Angeles) based DRILL Festival. The album drops on March 31st, which just so happens to be the second night of DRILL: LA at The Echo & Echoplex in Los Angeles (March 30th-April 2nd). Sure to be a hit with everyone, Silver/Lead is easily accessible to newcomers and old fans alike. Don’t miss this one.

Oliver Brink

Oliver is a lover of film, music, theatre, and art. He writes and works out of Los Angeles.

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