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  Read & Burn 02  
  Pink Flag  
Release Date:
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Wire are back, and perhaps better than ever before. For those who don't know, here's a quick summary. Wire started out as a punk band ("art-punk" they called it) in 1977 in the UK. Yes, that means they were contemporaries/peers of The Sex Pistols and The Clash. No, Epitaph bands do not rip them off. They released 3 great albums, then faded away for a while. They re-formed in the 80's to release some post-punk/synthpop/"new wave" stuff, then burned out again in 1991. Then, around the Turn of the Millenium, they re-formed again. A sign of the coming apocalypse perhaps? The exact meaning of this portent is still undetermined....

This is the second in their Read & Burn series of fresh, quick-to-release, new material. It was created for their 2002 tour, and was to be sold only as shows. Of course, there are some leftovers for sale at their website, if you are interested.

And by god you should be! This is some of the most intense, visceral, and completely, brutally honest music that i have ever heard. Six songs of sheer perfection, of what music should be in an ideal world where people tried to think with their brains and not their haircuts!

This EP starts with Read and Burn, a flurry of seesawing guitars, electronic noise, and vocalist Colin Newman's furious bellowing. The song moves along at a furious pace seething with rage and excess energy. "Wire," it says, "are here, and they are not gonna fuck around. So get with the program or get out of the way."

And then there is the majesty of Spent, which flows seemlessly from Read and Burn. This song is more mechanical in it's rhythm, and starts with a repeated guitar riff and Newman screaming, "Is this paranoid religious extreeeeemism!". It builds and builds and builds and then, suddenly, it explodes with loud rock drumming, and the song becomes a wall of sonic energy. Spent is LOUD and pure and beautiful. Emotion unshielded, a scream into the void at all that is stupid and annoying.

I think it should be pointed out that it was during a performance of this song last fall at The Echo Lounge that i had something close to a religious experience. Listening to this song still makes me feel more alive than i normally do. It is such a powerful musical statement. All of the elements that a song should have a present: driving rhythm, thudding bass riffs, overdriven guitar, an undercurrent of raw anger, and more feedback than you can care to shake a stick at. Or shake yourself at. This is what i always though punk rock should be, instead of the stoner ramblings of Green Day, or the stylistically pure suburban white pop of Face To Face, or all that harcore nastiness.

Anyway, Read and Burn 02 starts with 2 songs of pure punk energy. Then, when you are exhausted from just listening, Wire kick it down a notch and give you a great pop tune. Because, well, they can. It's called Trash/Treasure and is catchy and poppy. It features, buried in the mix, the keyboards that dominated their late 80's work, but here they are a mere accompaniment to the overall sound. Newman sings not screams, and he has a good voice and can carry a happy little melody.

Nice Streets Above follows with a noise fest. It is catchy with a toe-tapping rhythm and happy little melody, but all that is buried under distortion and eerie vocals and crunchy rhythmic noises. It is my least favorite track on this EP, but is still quite good.

The distortion and overdrive continues with Raft Ants, where Newman starts screaming again. This song really sounds like an old-school, class of 1977 UK punk classic: the vocals are a chant, the guitars are a whirr of sound, and the drumming is fast and repetitive. It's also, oddly enough, very danceable. If you are pogo-ing that is, and really, what other dance is there?

Finally, this EP ends with 99.9, a song that starts with a few minutes of ambient computer noise. It is a low hum, like the sounds you hear on a spaceship that has been invaded by a predatory alien species and you are waiting to be eaten. Then, slowly, the band comes in. And the song explodes, and again it is perfect punk.

I think, now that i listen to this EP, that Wire started that show i saw with 99.9 and then went into Spent with no break. At least, this sounds like what i remember. And in all honesty, finding out what that was has become sort of important to me, given what that concert did to me....

Anyway, enough about that. Yes, i am now a Wire fan. And this is the second coming. Wait, make that third coming. It is a masterful EP, and i hope that Wire continue to record things this stunning.

If you have any interest whatsoever in punk rock, hard rock, art rock, or emotionally raw music, then i cannot recommend this EP enough. In fact, this is absolutely essential listening.

Related Links:

Wire in concert.
Read & Burn 01.


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