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Music Review

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Artist: Wire
Label: Pinkflag
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 19 June 2020

Pinkflag release the latest album by Wire, 10:20, a mere six months after the release of their well received Mind Hive. This is more a love letter to their fans, than an LP of new songs, representing 8 reworked or previously unreleased songs...

I fondly remember reviewing Wire's 2017 album, Silver/Lead. and so was looking forward to hearing this new album. Wire are Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, Robert Grey and Matthew Simms, and together, over 40+ years and 18 studio albums, they have served up a collection that morphs from bright psychedelic pop to pummelling noise – with several detours along the way.

10:20 features songs the band refers to as "strays". These are recordings of pieces that couldn’t be accommodated on regular albums, as well as compositions that – following their original studio recording – evolved substantially through live performance.

Tracks 1 to 4 feature contributions from both Margaret Fielder (of Laika) – who had been performing guitar duties with Wire on live dates the previous year – and Simms, who was on the point of becoming an official member of the band.

1. 'Boiling Boy' first appeared on 1988’s A Bell is a Cup... Until it is Struck. Throughout the ’00s, it became one of the acknowledged highlights of Wire’s live sets.

2. 'German Shepherds' is another late ’80s Wire song that has developed a second life on stage. The recording is also notable in that it includes vocal contributions from Newman, Lewis and Fielder. "German Shepherds" represents Wire at their most optimistic and summery.

3. 'He Knows' was developed back in 2000 when Bruce Gilbert was still with the band. It emerged in a reinvigorated form in 2008 when it became a staple of Wire’s live show.

4. 'Underwater Experiences' was demoed for the band’s sophomore album Chairs Missing, but in the end was omitted. Having lay dormant for a couple of years, the song later appeared in two fast, abrasive, contrasting versions on Wire’s notoriously confrontational live album Document And Eyewitness, and a fifth iteration surfaced on 2013’s Change Becomes Us.

Tracks 5 to 8 were recorded more recently with the long-established line up of Newman, Lewis, Grey and Simms.

5. 'The Art of Persistence' arrived fully formed when Wire reconvened in 2000. But it was previously only available as a rehearsal room run-through on long deleted EP The Third Day or as a live version on Legal Bootleg album Recycling Sherwood Forest.

6. 'Small Black Reptile' originally appeared on the band’s 1990 album Manscape. Of all the reimagined songs on 10:20, this is the one that has travelled the furthest. Whereas the original was a skeletal and arch computer-driven pop song, this new version sees the composition retooled as a piece of melodic rock.

7. 'Wolf Collides,' with its warm synth tones and spindly lead lines, sounds as if it deserves to be sitting regally on side two of 1978’s Chairs Missing. In actual fact, it was written in 2015 and became a stalwart of that year’s live set. This version was recorded for inclusion on 2017’s Silver/Lead but was omitted due to lack of space.

8. 'Over Theirs' is the climax of the continuing reassessment of Wire’s 1980s output. Although the song appeared on The Ideal Copy and has been an intermittent component of the group’s live shows since 1985, its true power had never been properly harnessed in the studio – until now.

It's a wonderfully conceived collection of upbeat songs that really show the band off at their most positive. The only slight odd-one-out is 'Underwater Experiences' which feels a little out of place, considering it's a little too punky to fit in with the rest of the indie rock tracks.


Nick Smithson

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