On Silver/Lead, the sixteenth Wire release since they began the innovative art-rock journey in 1977, they seem somewhat emboldened, which makes sense given the last two somewhat experimental releases. Even so, it also does not quite meet the bold early material, as they play more mainstream rock here than punk; regardless, they seem more rejuvenated in their effort than on the last two.
Silver/Lead starts incredibly strong with “Playing Harp For the Fishes”, and while this is a slower song, it also goes with transcendental lyrics and transient rock in their ‘70s style. It is actually kind of uplifting, which is surprising, given the way their music has been recently. The spoken word thing, seen here, always seems to work for them, too.
With more drums and such in their punk way, they get more depressing in “Short Elevated Period”, but depressing or not, Colin Newman sounds great here, and it works in the said punk style. This release just gets more and more solid; there is something already known about “Diamond in Cups”, but this does not matter when one considers the quality and deep lyrics here.
Overall, they start to trip about as the record goes, but one has to appreciate what they are trying to achieve, as if they are playing a movie soundtrack or a church-like ‘90s anthem. “Forever In Day” makes a mark like this, a little like Red Barked Tree (QRO review) or Object 47 (QRO review), but more energetic.
Probably the best song in a strange way is “An Alibi”, because it does not claim to be more than it is; so, while some of these songs are slow, this one is deliberate, and soothingly plodding. Next up, “Sonic Lens” is interesting, but kind of does some more of the same, and the lyrics are a little hard to make out. Then, “This Time” does something good in a very rock way with cynical lyrics “This time I refused to get… bitten.”
The final three tracks make some changes, and firstly, “Sleep on the Wing” is kind of a trance-like, spacey, jam session, which is strange for Wire, but it works alright in an ethereal way.
Wire has consistently been touring, but what they have done here is expressly soft for their live style. “Brio” kind of plays it simple, but is also a little more early Wire sounding, and the vocals do the most, as the guitar does some stylistic looping.
Ending with “Silver Lead” is a heavy step down in mood, and while it may be fitting, it seems an odd departure from the rest of the release, at least in the dark and brooding nature it has, whereas some of the songs are lighter feeling.
Silver/Lead as a whole is interesting, and maybe that is what one wants from Wire, interesting rock, but comparing it to previous releases, it may be a bit of a repeat. This is OK, as one always gets aggressive, thought out, surrealist-punk-rock from them, but it has to be done well, not too experimental, and Silver/Lead, while not necessarily worse than other Wire, is not necessarily better either. It is both, moody and loop driven and then punk and spirited.