Usually, when a band has been around for 30 years and is most famous for the material produced in its first five years, the praise for new albums tends to reward the band for music made decades in the past. There may be no band that fights against this phenomenon more than Wire. This is a band that trumped all the first-wave punk bands with its watershed debut, 1977’s Pink Flag, and then immediately wiped the slate clean with the post-punk classic Chairs Missing the following year. The band’s legacy rests on the notion that its members would rather be caught dead then rest on their laurels.
Object 47, its name deriving from its number in the Wire catalog (similar to their third album, 154, the number of shows they’d performed to that point), is a new direction for a band that have made a career of taking new directions. While Send and the Read and Burn EPs revised the blueprint of the band’s classic material, Object 47 is by far the most trip-hop-influenced material Wire has ever produced, with additional elements of classic Madchester and acid house.
The album reveals not only how on-the-ball the band remain with the current scene, but how willing they are to acknowledge their influence. For a band whose website and label are named “pinkflag,” Object 47 reveals a clear line between Wire’s classic days and their influence on just about every pop music phenomenon that came in their wake. It’s finally come full circle with an album that is up there with the best of their followers’.
From the Stone Roses-inspired opener, “One of Us,” through tracks like “Hard Currency” and “All Fours” that could just as easily be on Portishead’s Third, there’s not a bad track to be found on the album, nor do any sound at all derivative. But what may be Object 47’s greatest accomplishment is Wire’s ability to maintain their punk aggression despite being light years away from Pink Flag. This is mainly the product of brilliant lyrics that ask more questions than they answer, are fascinated with ideas and –isms, and are not afraid call out their peers for treading water — try dissecting the meaning of the song “Mekon Headman” coming after the searing “Circumspect.”
Of all the bands in the rock canon, Wire may be the best embodiment of the term “forward-thinking” that is so vogue nowadays, and Object 47 keeps with the mantra with stunning results.