My entry into the world of Wire started back in 1987 when I first heard and saw their music video for "Ahead", a single taken from their album The Ideal Copy. At the time, I didn’t realize I was listening to the second incarnation of Wire - the first having ended after releasing their Document and Eyewitness live album, and band members taking a hiatus for a few years. I also didn’t realize then what an influential and groundbreaking band they were as part of the late 70’s punk scene in the UK, having released three critically acclaimed albums at that time (Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, 154). I immediately became a fan of the band’s music, their solo records (Colin Newman, He Said, Bruce Gilbert) and many of the abstract, experimental side projects of Graham Lewis and Bruce Gilbert (Dome, Cupol, Duet Emmo, MZUI, P’o).
Now, 40 years after the release of their first album, Pink Flag, Wire is back with their 15th studio album, Silver/Lead. Over the past four decades, the band membership has remained mostly unchanged, with the current quartet featuring three out of four original members (Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, Robert Grey), and also including guitarist Matthew Simms, who has been with the band since 2013’s Change Becomes Us.
Like a fine wine that ages over time, Wire has done the same: Silver/Lead is one of their finest albums. The songwriting across the ten tracks is as solid as ever, with Graham Lewis providing the clever, poetic lyrics to songs composed by Colin Newman and himself. With the exception of the uptempo "Short Elevated Period", the remainder of the album is noticeably slower than previous Wire releases. This works very well – the slower pace provides the listener with the opportunity to really listen to the lyrics, and take in the spacious and powerful atmosphere of Silver/Lead.
While all the songs are outstanding, my favorite is the positive, optimistic "Diamonds in Cups", which I feel really conveys the overall sound of the album. It’s the one song that’s probably the closest to the classic A Bell Is A Cup… Wire sound. "Forever and a Day" is the most melodic, including a chorus that sounds a bit like a love song – a melody that you’ll immediately remember and might find yourself singing along to. "Sonic Lens" stands out as the most sophisticated in terms of song construction and melody, and is another highlight.
The deluxe CD edition of the album is an 80-page hardbound book that provides background and insight into the life and story around each track, as written by Graham Duff. This is definitely worth seeking out if you’re looking for the full Silver/Lead experience.