Wire - Red Barked Tree (Pinkflag)
I have a history with Wire, dropping in and out at various periods of their long career. I've almost given up trying to explain to the uninitiated what I like so much about them, mainly because those who namedrop them without hearing them seem to be labouring under the illusion they're some sort of unfathomable, unlistenable, art-rock, avant-garde outfit, where nothing really could be further from the truth. Sure, they have their moments, but for the most part, they've spent a 30 year career producing some of the most literate, wiry (obviously), spiked pop music - spawned and informed by '77 punk, but never enslaved by its boundaries.
Their latest album, "Red Barked Tree", continues their idiosyncratic approach to popular music, beginning with "Please Take", with its beautifully sweary hook; radio will undoubtedly run a mile, which is no reason for the rest of us to be squeamish. "Now Was" is energetic and addictive, and the title-track provides an epic - almost folk-rock via Neu - conclusion, though I could have chosen any three tracks - there's nothing here that'll disappoint.
For those of us in the know, "Red Barked Tree" will become an album to treasure. If you're new to them, there's really nothing to be scared about. If you're unfazed by Radiohead or early REM (you'll probably know their version of "Strange" - believe me, Wire's original version is far superior), you'll find much here to enjoy. Take a chance. 9/10.