In 1985, after a five-year layoff, Bruce Gilbert, Colin Newman, Robert Gotobed, and Graham Lewis surprised everyone by reconvening as Wire. The band developed material and honed it in a series of live performances that year, but waited until mid-1986 to venture back into the studio to commit some of their new tracks to vinyl. Produced by Mute Records boss Daniel Miller (with whom Gilbert and Lewis had worked as Duet Emmo), Snakedrill was Wire's comeback EP. In many ways, Snakedrill shows a clear sense of continuity from Wire's late-'70s releases. With its tight, compressed beats, relentless forward motion, and catchy, abstract lyrics, the droning "Drill," for instance, recalls the taut minimalist aspect of some of the band's previous work. At the same time, however, Snakedrill finds Wire moving in a slightly more mainstream, avant-pop direction, particularly on tracks like the bouncy "Advantage in Height" and the hypnotic and appropriately serpentine "A Serious of Snakes." In addition to displaying a more expansive approach to production and paying more attention to melody, these tracks also introduce an electronic, beat-oriented dimension that would become more prevalent over the course of the band's next three albums. Of course, this being Wire, there is one characteristically quirky, tongue-in-cheek moment on Snakedrill; the a cappella duet "Up to the Sun" is a pseudo-mystical incantation that Lewis composed in order to "cure" Newman, who was suffering from hepatitis. (It's also a number that, in performance, tested the patience of audiences.) Novelty fare aside, Snakedrill stands as a pivotal release that picks up where 154 left off and anticipates the sound of subsequent albums like The Ideal Copy and A Bell Is a Cup Until It Is Struck.
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