Post-Punk Album Review: Wire - Mind Hive

Release Date: January 24, 2020
Label: Pink Flag
Label Wire, Negate Wire. Since their groundbreaking 1977 punk release, Pink Flag, this has been the band’s core belief. Like a handful of sand transforming into liquid and escaping your grasp, once you have a grip on them, they morph into something else. Cited by bands like U2, The Cure, R.E.M., Minor Threat, and Black Flag as heavy influences, Wire supercharged the entire scene, expanding the boundaries of punk creating sub and spinoff genres of art-punk, post-punk, and apocalyptic-punk.

In their latest offering, Wire harnesses a hive of minds. The sound of cerebella pulsates synaptically over wavy synths. At the same time, alien outcries warn of souls being crushed by machines, and the surrendering of one’s will equates unequivocally to the surrendering of one’s life. Yes, Mind Hive takes you there.

Music, on its own, is a form of escapism, but adding aliens or robots to the mix only intensifies the experience and takes one entirely out of reality. This otherworldliness is eminent on Mind Hive, which brings forth strains of “Q: Are we not men? A: We are Devo” and brings to mind David Bowie’s lyrical mastery on the topic. Add in the nervy horror of Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control,” and the result is a distinctive if not foreboding sonic experience. 

Let’s get real, if aliens are to take over our planet, they won’t do so by sudden invasion. It will be a slow infiltration and infestation. Upon closer inspection of the lady in front of you at the grocery line checkout, you’ll see that the wig she is wearing is not covering a bald spot, but a grouping of pulsating nodules recording the world around her and reporting back to the mothership. What if one of these aliens defected and took it upon itself to warn earthlings of what might cause their ultimate undoing? This is the vibe Mind Hive brings forth.   

The album begins with the rogue alien’s warning, “Be Like Them.” Doing so will surely crush your soul and contribute to the spread of authoritarianism and the downfall of humanity. “It’s history, rabid dogs. Tearing skeletons into piles of bones.” Then comes acceptance. “Nothing new about that...”. The song buzzes forth, taking hold of your spine, gripping it in reverberation for three minutes and fifty-two seconds. “Cactus” bursts forth with flashes from the late ‘70s and ‘80s. A rhythmic dirge with hooks, it sticks to you and stays with you.  

The essential track hits us three songs in with “Primed and Ready,” where stomping rhythm lifts fuzzy power chords to new heights while “Off The Beach” sees the beach boardwalk through a pop lens smudged with hopelessness. “Unrepentant” and “Shadows” are slower moody tracks giving voice to the aforementioned rogue alien. “Whistle dark because you can. Not to be an also-ran”, and “The men are lined up. Then shot into graves. The children are murdered. The women enslaved. Shadow of the future. Shadow of the past”. The eight-minute long “Hung” sounds like a funeral march.  It evokes the death of the future in harmony with the death of the past. Mind Hive closes cinematically with “Humming,” a lamentation of the past and how we ended up where we are. “I can’t quite remember when it went wrong. Someone was humming a popular song.”

All in all, Wire’s Mind Hive is an accomplishment, poetic lyrics for our time and the underlying mood to match. As a band, Wire continues to embody the punk spirit by playing and saying whatever the fuck they want. Riding the critical success of 2017’s Silver/Lead, Colin Newman (vocals and guitar), Graham Lewis (bass and vocals), Bruce Gilbert (guitar), and Robert Gotobed (drums) remind you to heed the warning of the rogue alien or suffer the consequences. Wire have genuinely outdone themselves on Mind Hive, easily my favorite record of 2020 (so far).

Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen | MuzikMan.net Staff

February 6, 2020

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