Red Barked Tree (Pink Flag)

Phases & Stages


Red Barked Tree (Pink Flag)

Now on a third reincarnation, UK art-punk pioneers Wire channel the vitality of their 1970s/1980s canon into something far more hungry and adventurous than simply a resewn Pink Flag. With three of four original members (guitarist Bruce Gilbert bowed out in 2004), Red Barked Tree evolves like a bell curve – starting cool, building to a boil, and gradually coming back down. The curtain opens on "Please Take," a sleek, midtempo cruiser couched in the polite British vocal restraint of bassist Graham Lewis, at least until he croons, "Fuck off out of my face" to touch off the chorus. Misbegotten anthem "Adapt" gets mired in the vintage moodiness of Colin Newman's saturated guitar riffs, but it works as setup for "Two Minutes," a blasting, spoken-word overload cut and pasted from random sources. "A Flat Tent" is the head-bobbingest distillation of Wire's sharp-edged pop smarts, while "Smash" speeds along on a surly bassline and perfectly aired snare snaps that are then overtaken by jagged swirls of defoliated guitar. The closing title track borrows an unlikely acoustic psych-folk pastiche as a spiritual bulwark against the free-market abuses described in the lyrics. That particular departure doesn't make the leap from novel to genuinely engaging, but it offers concrete evidence that Wire's capacity for reinvention is far from cashed. (Wire crashes Mohawk Friday, April 8.)


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