Wire's return to full-time active duty came as something of a surprise. Colin Newman, Bruce Gilbert, and Graham Lewis (the latter two both separately and as the duo Dome) had been growing increasingly abstract and non-rock in the six years since the group had split up, but 1988's A Bell Is a Cup...Until It Is Struck is, at heart, an album full of pop songs. Admittedly, they're mainly peculiar pop songs full of stream-of-consciousness lyrics ("Money spine paper lung kidney bingos organ fun," goes the chorus of the catchiest song, sung by Newman in a dreamy reverie as if the unrelated non sequiturs were just another love song) and produced in an oddly detached way that emphasizes the atmospheres over the melodies, but they're pop songs nonetheless. Newman and Lewis coat the songs with overdubbed layers of gentle guitars, treated and phased into waves of sound that ebb and flow around the songs over Gilbert's throbbing bass and Robert Gotobed's dancefloor-based rhythms. Arguably Wire's best album and certainly its most accessible, A Bell Is a Cup...Until It Is Struck is a work of modern rock genius. The CD includes four bonus tracks, including a thoroughly reworked alternate version of "The Queen of Ur and the King of Um" and a chugging eight-minute live version of "Drill."
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason