October 24, 2002

Ed's Underground

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In the history of punk, there has perhaps not been a more important band than Wire — even in spite of the fact that only their 1977 debut, Pink Flag, could truly be called punk rock. After that, they added electronic soundscapes to their trademark raw energy and never looked back. Following their phenomenal first three albums, the band disbanded various times while releasing a series of inconsistent (but still worthy) albums.

Read & Burn is the latest chapter in the Wire saga — a continuing series of 6-song EPs that explore and develop the band’s unique sound. The first installment in the series has gotten comparisons to Pink Flag from lazy reviewers, but it’s clear that this album couldn’t exist without Wire’s entire preceeding output.

New territory, in this case, consists of hitting the listener over the head with lead-heavy mallets of guitar and rapid-fire drumming. Singer Colin Newman hasn’t lost his ire, and though most of the band is edging towards 60, the ferocity of the music makes it clear that this is no nostalgia act. Standouts include “Comet” (which baits commercial pop with the lyric, “the chorus goes, ‘blah blah bah blah'”) and the spiky riffing of “Germ Ship.”

It is on Read & Burn 02, though, that Wire version 2002 really comes into its own. This is a totally different beast than any Wire that has come before — capable of shifting from the creepy pop of “Trash/Treasure,” to the hilariously fast hardcore of “Raft Ants.”

The songs here seem much more developed than those on R&B 01, and the disparate styles are given room to shine. These two EPs represent the best material Wire has put out in over twenty years — a far cry from the crap most bands this old and influential are currently churning out. The Read & Burn series is just as fast-paced, too, with a flood of new material throughout 2003. If future volumes progress along the same road of constant reinvention as Wire has so far, this promises to be a very exciting series.

Archived article by Ed Howard