splendid > reviews > 4/18/2003

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Mr. Marx's Table"

Buy me now
If you've actually taken our advice over the last nine-odd months, this review will be of limited value to you. Based upon our endorsement and your own good sense, you'll have acquired copies of Wire's two "comeback" EPs, Read and Burn volumes 1 and 2, and will therefore already own seven-elevenths of the material on Send. It's up to you, then, whether four new songs and one longer version of a previously-released song are sufficient incentive to buy the full-length. I'm guessing you've ordered it already, perhaps motivated by's exclusive addition of a bonus CD featuring mixes of live multitrack recordings made at last year's Chicago performance. That's what snared me.

So this review is aimed at the fence-sitters -- the people who said "Wire? No thanks. I spent several thousand dollars traveling around the country going to Mission of Burma reunion shows. I can't afford to get involved." Or the people who said "Wire? Aren't they the band who made Manscape? No thanks." Or even the people who were irredeemably hooked on Dashboard Confessional until a miraculously timely burst of the right sort of hormones set them back along the path of light and righteousness. Whatever the reason, you folks didn't even buy Read and Burn 01, and that was, in my humble opinion, fucking stupid of you. This is your chance to set things right.

Want proof? No problem. Send includes 01's best songs -- "In the Art of Stopping", "The Agfers of Kodack" and "Comet". "Art" and "Agfers" are top-flight post-punk anthems, driven by Wire's recently-trademarked "compressed" guitar sound; there's a vibrant energy there, squeezed to the point of constant surface tension. "Comet" does them one better -- it's one of 2002's best songs, a four-four hyper-futuristic mosh-pit anthem, guitars hammered into a crispy, teflon-coated slab of seething fury.

Songs culled from the mail-order-only Read and Burn 02 take a different tack. They're more electronic-sounding, for one; "Read and Burn" and "Nice Streets Above" (featured here in "unedited" form, at a whopping 3:45) push forward with relentless, mechanical-sounding rhythms, while "Spent" drops its sampled, sanded-down riff into a more conventional angry punk tune. Colin Newman's vocals are as furious here as they've ever been, with "Spent" a ranty peak, though closer "99.9", which builds gradually from brooding ambience to a manic pair of sustained peaks, gives him a chance to demonstrate a sort of quasi-religious, semi-verbal glossolalia that's even more fascinating.

The four new tracks are good, if not jaw-dropping; they're certainly more than mere Read and Burn session throw-aways. "Mr. Marx's Table" offers a rare concession to warmer, more melodic composition; take some of the heft away from the background guitars and it could fit neatly into A Bell Is a Cup...Until It Is Struck. "Being Watched" skulks along at a middling tempo, trailing behind a fuzzed-out bass lead, and "You Can't Leave Now" is even slower, dirgier and more bass-heavy; it sounds like a 45RPM copy of one of the Read and Burn 01 tunes played at 33⅓. "Half-Eaten" throws a final spanner in the "predict which way Wire's creative process is going" works, layering a variety of stripped-down guitar accents and processed vocals over a borderline-dancefloor beat. It's mad stuff, but just under two minutes long, and therefore unlikely to be a true indicator of the group's future plans.

As an overall listening experience, Send is concise and virtually seamless; only two songs cross the four-minute mark, and each tune dovetails into the next with minimal fanfare, as if Wire only booked an hour in the studio and cranked through the entire disc without a break, leaving time at the end for coffee. Indeed, there's something impressively purposeful about Send -- a "businesslike" approach to art-making that somehow doesn't compromise the artistic side of the equation.

Along the same lines, if you can't quite muster truly fervid enthusiasm for Send, it's probably due, in some part, to the matter-of-factness of its presentation. There is much here to be excited about, but carefully cultivated detachment seems to be Wire's preferred modus operandi.

Let's just review the important points, shall we? Send features the best tracks from the two Read and Burn EPs, and more interesting stuff besides. If you've somehow ignored Wire's post-millennial comeback until now, it's time to get on the stick; Send will hit you like a train. You're going to love it. We won't even say we told you so.



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