Ironically opening with In the Art of Stopping, Wire's first album in over a decade proves that there's plenty of life in the old dog yet. "Trust me, believe me," pipes Newman against an energetic, mechanical, and hypnotic rhythm that is as much The Sweet as it is ex-punks-turned-who-knows-what.
Several tracks, such as the comical Comet, the hardcore Nice Streets Above—reminiscent of a seriously pissed-off Hawkwind—and the truly bizarre rock/dancefloor mesh of Half Eaten, rattle along at an alarming rate. This is all the more startling when you stop to consider the band's age.
Far from content in merely outpacing its younger contemporaries, Wire is also harder and angrier than most, spitting venom through the guitar-drenched drone of Spent and angular stomp of Being Watched.
If anything, Wire has simplified yet again: tracks are stripped of all extraneous elements, presented as in-your-face walls of sound, enhanced by Newman and Gilbert's crunchy and angular guitar riffs playing off each-other to great effect. Lyrical playfulness and audio juxtapositions are peppered throughout, though: Comet's "it's a heaven-sent extinction event" rivals anything in the back catalogue, while Mr Marx's Table succeeds in the tricky task of combining wall-of-sound guitars, a distant, relentless drumbeat and a sickly sweet Newman vocal. The best is saved for last, with 99.9's ambient textures and Newman's soothing singing eventually giving way to blasts of guitars, exploding electronic distortion and a furious vocal.
In many ways Send manages to put past Wire releases to shame, and is as essential an album today as Pink Flag was in 1977. It's a hell of a lot better, too.
The Metro CD
Hardcore Wire fans may feel irked that over half of Send's tracks have previously appeared on the Read and Burn EPs. To sweeten the blow, posteverything.com customers get a second CD, documenting Wire's gig at the Metro in Chicago in 2002. Featuring the same mix of caustic guitars, breakneck rhythms and bawled vocals, it serves as a useful reminder of the accomplished live band Wire has become. The Send tracks take on a new urgency and contain more of a soul than the occasionally cold album.
Several non-Send tracks are also in evidence, including the groovy yet creepy Germ Ship and much loved I Don't Understand. The mix is also impressive, and while the subtlety of Read and Burn's riff is lost, Mr Marx's Table takes on a new life, with the drum track brought to the fore.
Craig Grannell (April, 2003)