If Wire had called it a day after releasing their first three seminal records (which they supposedly had at the time), it would have been enough to cement their place as a linchpin of the post-punk canon. As it is, though, the band regrouped and reimagined itself several times over the past three decades, continuing to release challenging and innervating music with every incarnation.
Since Wire’s most recent reunification in 2000, the band has released a string of records every bit as forward-thinking as its most heralded works. Even the departure of original guitarist Bruce Gilbert before 2008’s Object 47 didn’t knock the band off the tracks, as evidenced by the five subsequent records the band released. Indeed, the most recent of those, 2017’s Silver/Lead, was lauded as one of the band’s best.
And Wire’s new album, Mind Hive (Pinkflag), shows no decline. Like much of the band’s output over the last 12 years, it is a seeming culmination of everything the band has done: the freneticism of those early records, the ambient pop the band released in the ’80s, and the industrial-strength riffage of the albums made with Gilbert in the early ’00s.
Admittedly, the record starts off awkwardly with “Be Like Them,” a track of plodding rhythms and monotone vocals that doesn’t exactly pull one in. However, once the next song, “Cactused,” kicks in, the record finds its footing. Here, vocalist/guitarist Colin Newman pairs verses of half-sung vocals and jaunty guitar lines with the chorus’ melodic hook to good effect. Elsewhere, on “Off the Beach,” the band sounds almost bucolic in its blend of chiming acoustic guitars and keyboard washes, and though on paper it may not sound very Wire-y, it suits them well. Nonetheless, it is when the aforementioned coalescing of Wire sounds happens that the record is most remarkable. “Primed and Ready” is a jagged meshing of sandblasted guitars and synth shards that has one foot in the past and another clearly in the future. On the much mellower “Shadows,” Newman expresses this juxtaposition lyrically when he sings, “Shadow of the future, shadow of the past.” This sentiment is emblematic of Wire and of Mind Hive, a record which shows what can happen when hindsight and innovation meet.