Album Review: Wire – Mind Hive

Mind Hive

Post punk.

Briefly scan through any article about a politically or socially charged band with guitars and the likelihood is this description will be there somewhere.

Wikipedia describes it as being ‘inspired by punk’s energy and DIY ethic but determined to break from rock clichés, artists experimented with sources including electronic music and styles like dub, funk and disco’. By definition therefore it’s meaningless, in that presumably anything recorded after 1976 can fit into that category (although it’s hard to imagine Coldplay ever choosing the term to describe themselves).

Yet most who choose the moniker would cite Wire as a key influence. Often labelled as the first post-punk band, the presently four-piece are a testament to longevity not stifling creativity. Despite having had several sabbaticals, Mind Hive is their seventeenth studio album and is as beguiling as the first.

Better than that, it’s an album that evolves without alienating the listener. It’s a struggle to imagine the mighty, menacing distorted guitar of opener Be Like Them, swinging as it does and held together by Robert Grey’s solid clatter of drums, being part of the same recording sessions as last track Humming, a state of the world address (‘I can’t remember when it went wrong, someone was humming a popular song’) atop a funereal church organ.

The first few tracks are primarily styled in Wire’s more recognisable timbre: Primed And Ready once again features great cracks of the snare and crunchy, suffocating guitars while Cactused goes one further, all stop-start, effect-heavy walls of noise that are almost shoegazey. Meanwhile, Colin Newman’s vocal delivery is quintessentially English, bringing to mind a dreamy Bryan Ferry. The track recalls present-day Ride and is an album highlight.

Yet around the halfway point the album regenerates itself. Off The Beach is as breezy and deft (with acoustic guitars, for shame!) as all songs about the seaside should be. The band then go full Pink Floyd; Unrepentant is spaced out and swirling (Newman now uncannily channelling Roger Waters) and Shadows is similarly hazy but with a sinister undercurrent. Of course, when the subject matter is outlining mankind’s atrocities a smattering of dread is to be expected.

After providing ten consecutive minutes of laconic bliss, Oklahoma purports to do something similar but lulls the listener into a false sense of security, the wall of guitar slapping us back into the here and now before the bass oozes out of the speakers. Held together by the repeated message ‘I admire your sexy hearse’ (nope, us neither), the track demands full attention in preparation for the final furlong. The seven-minute Hung can only be described as a noise symphony in several parts, atmospheric noise rock at its finest. Vocals are kept to a minimum but once again a simple mantra is all that’s required (‘In a moment of doubt the damage was done’). Lyrically, Humming goes one step further, decrying the ‘oligarchs’ and ‘empire vacuums’ that bedraggle 21st century western society.

If you’re looking to escape the doom of the modern world you won’t find such relief here (although with Wire, you probably shouldn’t have pressed play in the first place), but to avoid Mind Hive would be to deny one’s self.

As fresh and as vital as anything produced by the younger generation, the ‘first post-punk band’ are showing no signs of slowing down.


Richard Bowes

Learn More

Leave a Reply