On their post-millennial return to the studio, Wire rediscovered no-nonsense noisemaking, trashing the art component of their pioneering art punk identity and throwing themselves headlong into a fast, loud, and bilious new philistinism. The band's first salvo, Read & Burn 01, was a stomping, short, sharp shocker, the aural equivalent of getting jumped in a dark alley by a bunch of irate, amphetamine-addled pensioners (well, Bruce Gilbert was nearing 60 when the CD appeared). A few months later, with listeners still cowering in the corner groping about for their glasses and checking for broken bones, the thuggish quartet came back to put the boot in again. Grounded in the three Rs (repetition, repetition, and repetition), Read & Burn 02 shares its predecessor's hit-and-run aesthetic: it's a post-industrial punk rock barrage of buzzing, stinging guitars; chunky basslines; and clockwork beats littered with terse, strangled vocals that fall somewhere between bolshy, pre-brawl aggression and football-terrace chants. The sound of Wire 2002 rarely lets you catch your breath. From the title track's deconstructed glam rock rhythms to the metallic rush of "Nice Streets Above" to the hectoring speedcore of "Raft Ants," these numbers seem fueled by a "last-one-to-the-end-of-the-song's-a-sissy" competition among the bandmembers. But while the overriding feel is one of menace and urgency, there are some less-fraught moments. It's a good cop/bad cop routine: Amid the general sonic onslaught, part of "Trash/Treasure" sees Colin Newman trading his heckling delivery for almost soothing vocals and Wire playing pop in a way that recalls their better '80s material. Still, Gilbert, Grey, Graham Lewis, and Newman have never had much time for nostalgia, and the new level of assaultive energy here emphasizes that the band is still reinventing itself. Read & Burn 02 is the sound of Wire not so much looking back as looking forward in anger.
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AllMusic Review by Wilson Neate