Wire - Change Becomes Us

So it’s all a matter of time, and the true mysteries of a work or an idea often reveal themselves a lot later than we think.


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I’m not one to read my old reviews. I’m not going to start now: but I’m sure I have said before that Wire are, certainly over the last 10 years or so, making the best music of their long career. I’m sure if I did read my old pieces I’d see myself morphing  into one of those weird, on-message spokespeople for some large corporation,  a musical Mouth of Sauron, endlessly repeating the stats  so I can bore/lull/ persuade you into the ultimate sense of believing “my truth”…   The ultimate broken record.  But still, name me another act who have been able to keep knocking out such good records from such a strong and familiar template.

Apparently Change Becomes Us is, (to quote the band) “an exploration of unrecorded material originally written in 1979–80”. And no, I don’t think this is the move of a band running out of creative steam. Not this band. It’s an energetic, zippy record, brim-full of ideas and half statements and suggestions, not to mention deeply satisfying noises, despite having a fair number of slower numbers like & Much Besides. Wire make a big sound and a smooth one too; powerful, shiny and clean. There’s a certain feline presence about their work of late, they have become masters at balancing these abrasive and jagged, fractured edges against a muscular, broad-shouldered and incredibly groovy undercarriage. Listen to the magnificent Adore Your Island, or Love Bends, which lay down their sonic hits on the listener like a left –right.

As ever there’s something very impressionistic about their music, displayed in the little snippets of overheard conversations maybe, a phrase that may sound banal when written down, but in the context of a record, (when painted onto a larger, more multidimensional canvas), takes new shape. What’s going on in Re-Invent Your Second Wheel, for instance? Or the (Eno-esque) Eels Song, and As We Go? It’s always worth listening in, almost as if you were snooping in on a conversation - as they have a brilliant knack of changing the tone of a message, or the viewpoint on a sixpence - maybe the key to their creative longevity - the words being suggestions to moods, statements judiciously placed against these broad strokes and guitar washes. You can hear this from the off with the tense but supremely confident  Doubles and Trebles, (and the closing track Attractive Space for that matter), which takes just as much time as it needs to get its message across, thank you very much.

In fact Change Becomes Us is a remarkably concise and spirited piece, never sounding like an amalgamation or a collection of old ideas jumbled together. I know this may sound incredibly boring to report, but the running order is a real indication of just how good this record is, tracks like Attractive Space and As We Go are brilliant counterpoints to tracks like B/W Silence (surely one of Wire’s best tracks?). And a final thought about the notion that using old ideas is somehow cheating. Wire have just appropriated a trick from the master painters: Titian used to turn his sketches to the wall for months, sometimes years before revisiting them. So it’s all a matter of time, and the true mysteries of a work or an idea often reveal themselves a lot later than we think. And the choice of when and what to do with the germ of an idea, and work on how to present it, is just as true and honest an artistic gesture as plucking ideas from the ether.