CD Review – Wire: Red Barked Tree
For a band who’s made their name by changing their sound from album to album, Wire’s new album Red Barked Tree might seem like a bit of a “victory lap”. Shades of the band’s 1988 magnum opus A Bell is a Cup Until it is Struck and 1979’s 154 are present, but Red Barked Trees is hardly a retread; for a group of sixty-year-olds, Wire is still making left-field choices and eschewing pop convention, even as they embrace it more fully. “Adapt” is a seriously gorgeous acoustic ballad, while songs like “A Flat Tent” find the band exploring Guided by Voices-esque powerpop in a distinctly Wire way. And while Red Barked Tree is full of the kind of non-sequiturs the band has made their stock in trade, the lyrics on display now are more fleshed out.
For every spiky bit of post-punk that the band basically perfects, there are major change-ups that sound nothing like Pink Flag. While the album’s many genres make it far from cohesive, nearly every song (except the surprisingly plodding “Down to This”) contributes a new idea, brilliantly executed. Red Barked Tree is perhaps the best endorsement for aging rockers to keep making music – that is, if they’re half as inventive as Wire.