Essential New Music: Wire’s “Silver/Lead”

Wire turns 40 this year. Any band with that many years and its own migratory festival could easily settle for jogging victory laps, but the edition of Wire:DRILL that came to Chicago in 2015 did just the opposite. The band opened for other groups under an assumed name, played deep catalog cuts as well as hits and even indulged an impromptu jam with Jon Spencer. The latter was a disaster, but that only underscored Wire’s willingness to not play it safe. On Silver/Lead, the band takes another risk by dropping the archness that has been both sidearm and armor throughout its many phases. Musically, Silver/Lead is in the same vein as its immediate predecessors, homing in on the crisp pop aspects of Wire’s hydra-headed sound. But instead of spiking its tunes with sardonicism and bile, singers Colin Newman and Graham Lewis express concern and vulnerability. While one might miss the lacerating intensity of its brilliant ’70s records or bracing early-aughts comeback, you have to toast Wire’s willingness to keep on trying new things.

—Bill Meyer