On Silver/Lead, Wire celebrate their 40th anniversary by throwing some intentional kinks into their well-oiled machinery. Much of their music in the 2010s was as fast-paced as their release schedule, but on their 15th album, they're slower and stranger than they've been in years. Aside from the swift guitar pop of "In a Short Elevated Period," this album doesn't blaze like Change Becomes Us or Nocturnal Koreans; instead, it turns the energy of those albums inward on songs that shimmer like silver and have the heft of lead. Wire are just as keenly observant when they're introspective as when they take aim at the outside world, and when Colin Newman sings "be a good witness of all that you've seen" on the minor-key T. Rex riffage of "Diamonds in Cups," it's an apt description of their modus operandi. Meanwhile, the grinding opener "Playing Harp for the Fishes," which features bassist Graham Lewis on vocals, revives the darkly surreal ruminations that this incarnation of the band seemed to have left behind. The feeling that Silver/Lead's songs should be faster creates a different kind of tension that's arguably more provocative, and interesting, than a barrage of rapid-fire tempos. "An Alibi" is an uneasy post-punk lullaby, while the ironically named "Brio" evokes the languid spaciness of Pink Floyd as well as the desolation Wire mastered decades ago. Slowing things down also lets the melancholy that bubbled under on Wire come to the surface, and Silver/Lead delivers some of the band's prettiest, and saddest, music in some time. Newman imbues "Sleep on the Wing" with a highly literate, ever so slightly ominous sorrow, while Lewis' weary baritone is used perfectly on "This Time," where he sings "this time is gonna be better" to a melody that sounds like a lie the moment it leaves his lips. And when he sings "Ooh darling/I want you to stay" on "Forever & a Day," it shows just how much power naked emotion can have in the hands of a band as famously cerebral and aloof as this one. As precise as ever yet oddly moving, Silver/Lead reaffirms that Wire are more like mercury, shape-shifting effortlessly while remaining true to the things that have always made them great.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares