What can one really say about Wire that hasn’t been said in the last two decades? It seems they’ve ranged all over the place, constantly exploring their sound, pushing themselves in every which direction they choose. You have to give them respect in that regard, and with Red Barked Tree, the group seems to have written one of their best records to date, fulfilling from start to finish.
“Please Take” uses soft-edged guitars to sort of create a gentle angular soundscape, while precision drumming simply just keeps pace. Yet, on the first track it’s the vocals, with lines like “please, take your knife out of my back,” that demonstrate the band giving more focus to the lyrical content…one of the things I felt lacked in some of their more recent efforts.
Of course, there are definitely some proto-punk tracks that give old fans, as well as new ones, something blissful and quick to hold onto with Red Barked Tree. “Now Was” seems to come off a little bit too much, in my eyes, like a fast-paced breathing exercise. Sure, the beat and guitar work kill it, but something about the delivery just didn’t seemed to steady. Still, “Flat Tent” is personally one of the finest songs I think Wire has written to date. You can tell that technology has definitely allowed the band to flourish with their efforts, as the production is spot on here. One thing that both baffles me, and pleases me, is the band’s ability on this track to provide listeners with something so vibrant and energetic and, dare I say, in the now.
Keeping all that in mind, fans and newcomers alike will definitely fine some of the more sonically explorative songs proving their worth. For a band that’s been around, you’re not likely to find guitar lines as sharp as you can find on “Moreover.” Honestly, you can see the direction of the song from the get go, almost marching along, but the vocals and the way the guitar cuts through the song, yet still remains somewhat in the background, just builds the momentum of the track. “Down to This” is really one of my favorite tracks on Red Barked Tree overall. There’s something about the song that doesn’t really resemble Wire for me, yet as I’ve noted, you can’t really define the band, and that’s precisely what makes this song spectacular. There’s dark undertones lurking in the background, and the soft release of the vocals allows you to hang ever so lightly in the air–check out the 3 minute mark.
You’ll find the finest moment on Red Barked Tree waiting for you at the very end with the album’s title track, “Red Barked Tree.” This group seems to manipulate the sound perfectly, creating almost a swaying effect with the way the guitars unfold throughout. In choosing not to rush the track, once again letting it build, the song really begins to take over you, yet it never gives you that complete emotional release. A little restraint in the end–I like that. After all these years you would expect a group to sort of dial-it-in, relying on their fan base to push sales, yet each time you pick up a new Wire record, you’ll be amazed at how current they sound. Such attributes may note mean much to the download/delete generation, but fans of great music will surely find Red Barked Tree full of redeeming qualities.
Download: Wire – Two Minutes [MP3]