For most Wire fans, the band ceased to exist in 1979. And though Wire existed in various incarnations throughout the next two decades, the band’s output never approached the near flawless trilogy — Pink Flag (1977), Chairs Missing (1978), and 154 (1979) — that began its career. That is, not until Wire reformed in 2002, recommitted to resurrecting the avant-garde vitriol of its ’70s releases with the Read & Burn EPs, a series of “research and development” documents, and 2003’s Send LP. But even then, it was, to borrow the title from Read & Burn 03’s lead track, “twenty-three years too late.”
For a band known for its explosive brevity, the four songs on the third Read & Burn installment sprawl to the practically epic length of twenty-five minutes. And although there are glimmers of Wire the peerless post-punk monument, the songs’ lengths dull the impact of what could otherwise be some truly ferocious music. On opener “23 Years Too Late,” bassist Graham Lewis delivers fragmented “poetry” with pompous theatricality. But these tense verses give way to cathartic choruses full of Robert Gotobed’s mechanical drumming, buzzing guitar duels, and Colin Newman barking non-sequiturs. “Our Time” rides a stiff bass line while Newman enumerates various activities that pass the time, from sleeping to kissing. But it’s the two final tracks, “No Warning Given” and “Desert Diving,” that come closest to recapturing the speed, intensity, and fractured melody of vintage Wire.
To be fair, there’s no way for the members of Wire to recover the circumstances that produced their first three albums. And more than two decades on from that landmark, these four songs — none of which will appear on the band’s forthcoming full-length — are a valiant stab at channeling that spirit. Few other bands have shown as convincingly as Wire that creativity can endure, unsullied by aging.