And, in a flurry of chaotic discord, Wire return with their new record, Mind Hive, a dagger of a record that pierces you at its opening and lays you gently to rest at its conclusion. For a band that have been an important staple in every post-punk conversation since 1976, it’s refreshing to see that longevity has not lead to sterility, as is so often the case with the artists that we place on pedestals. Mind Hive sounds every bit as fearsome as the legendary Pink Flag, and yet bears all the hallmarks of a band insistent on pushing themselves to new territories, away from what is expected and into what is novel.
The turbulent opener ‘Be Like Them’, with its heavy toms and muddy guitars, starts with Wire’s Colin Newman intoning ‘It’s nothing new…’, and yet there is a feeling from the off that the statement stands in antithesis to the sound itself. This is a record that takes you from the beatings of monotone punk to the Smiths-esque jingle-jangles of catchy choruses. We have ethereal moments, where the sound washes over you in a torrent of feeling, most noticeable on the frankly gorgeous ‘Unrepentant’, a song that bears repeating, so dreamlike it almost pulls you to that night time world of free association. And yet, from these moments of peace, we can be immediately taken to the harsh reality of Wire at their infamous best. Though appearing towards the records end, ‘Hung’ is a seven-minute run through Wire at their most jarring, where the guitars are deconstructed to the point of being unrecognisable and the only thing holding you in place, stopping you from floating away, is that ever-reliable thud of the drum kit, sat in the back of the mix, keeping you around for the conclusion.
From ‘Hung’, we are then ‘Humming’, Hive Mind’s understated ending. ‘Spy the Russians, brushing scandals, under oligarchy rugs.’ There are no metaphors here. Wire have never been afraid of positioning themselves on the right side of history. There is no hiding from the fact that we live in fragile times and yet so often the artists we listen to are reluctant to dip their toes into the world of politics, preferring to keep their art about the simple things in life – love, loss, hedonism, the bacchanal. Perhaps it’s the benefit of perspective – Wire have existed and created through the heights of the Cold War, the hope that came after the wall fell and the insecurity and latent fear post 9/11. Now, as we enter this new decade, we are faced with fresh challenges and who has a bigger platform than the musicians that we listen to each and every day? Though Newman ‘can’t quite remember, when it went wrong’, he must have some idea. He too notices our ability to block out the world and find safety in escapism. Yes, someone is always ‘humming a popular song.’ It’s the ease with which we fall into these empty vessels that is concerning and the willingness with which we’re continuously encouraged by our musicians to simply fall in love and forget all about it. On Mind Hive, Wire drive home the idea that we are, like bees, in a constant state of activity, that there is no moment to rest on our laurels. Yes, you can continue to distract yourselves but that does not change the reality that we are in. Mind Hive is a searing record fitting for the start of a new decade with the great unknown staring morbidly into our faces.
Review by Alexander Sarychkin