Wire

Change Becomes Us

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As with many things, Wire were ahead of their time when they reunited several years before other post-punk and indie favorites decided to get back together during the 2000s and 2010s. They were already a going concern when they began playing lesser-known material that had previously only appeared on the live albums Document and Eyewitness and Turns and Strokes during the Red Barked Tree tour. Inspired, Wire headed into the studio with touring guitarist Matt Simms to rework and flesh out these songs, which were seen as some of their most challenging music. While revisiting old material is often seen as a sign of artistic death -- especially for a band as innovative as Wire -- they handle it creatively on Change Becomes Us. Object 47 and Red Barked Tree had already suggested that the band had found a way to place the intensity of its early days into a more modern context, and this album is just a further expression of that. Tempering the more confrontational aspects of these songs with atmospheric productions and arrangements that feel of a piece with Red Barked Tree, Change Becomes Us is more meditative, and more focused, than the material's intimidating reputation would suggest. When it was known as "Ally in Exile," the opening track "Doubles & Trebles" sounded like it could bore into listeners' brains; here, its tale of espionage gone wrong is just as paranoid but more resigned-sounding, only adding to its air of hopelessness. Similarly, "Eels Sang" trades the chaos of its origins for a lunging rhythm that underscores its wordplay, and "Re-Invent Your Second Wheel" (formerly "Zegk Hopq") is much more melodic and playful, its cryptic lyrics now playing more like a secret handshake than an impenetrable code. However, Change Becomes Us is more than just a rehash or compare-and-contrast exercise; these songs sound great in their own right. While "Adore Your Island"'s mix of power chords and breakneck choruses proves they can rock as hard as ever, the quieter path Wire take on most of the album is just as compelling, particularly on "Time Lock Fog"'s chilly undertow or "Magic Bullet"'s shifting reflections. As tempting as it is to wonder what these songs would have sounded like if the band had recorded them in the studio closer to when they were written (instead of taking a hiatus for half of the '80s), hearing the group filter the energy of the past through years' worth of experience should make Change Becomes Us the best of both worlds for many Wire fans.

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