A neat manifesto update for those who’ve not been paying full attention.
Alex Deller 2012
You have to hand it to them: for a band born of the brashness and youthful vigour of 77 punk, Wire had no real right to release an album as fresh and sparkling as last year’s Red Barked Tree. With the plaudits still ringing like tinnitus in their ears, the legendary experimental / post-punk/indie / art rock / whateveryouwannacallthem act launched into a cranny-poking tour that begat this typically forward-focused set for Radio France.
Rather than aiming to appease fly-by-night fans, The Black Session instead eschews the current trend for revisiting past glories and takes stock of more recent successes: apt, perhaps, for a band who did the whole Plays (Insert Classic Album) In Its Entirety shtick a couple of years before All Tomorrow’s Parties began its Don’t Look Back series and carried out the exercise as an act of land-salting rather than one of thumb-twiddling nostalgia.
Proceedings start with the deceptive – and somewhat listless – lull of Adapt before giving way to the surge and crash of Comet, an invigorating blast of frantic energy that leaves you wondering whether they were just toying with us during the lacklustre opener. It’s not until we’re five tracks deep that a true oldie appears – 1988’s Kidney Bingos – and they’re only intermittently peppered throughout from then on in, with sporadic nods to 154, a scuttling rendition of The Drill and a borderline-iconoclastic take on Pink Flag that sprawls beyond the 10-minute mark as it rounds the album out.
As well as a fitting tour totem for those who were there, The Black Session also serves as a neat manifesto update for those who should’ve been paying closer attention. That said, it isn’t perfect: the live setting inevitably meaning the loss of much lapidary polish and perfectionism while certain bubbling undercurrents are eclipsed by brash thrashes and thumps. Thankfully, though, the songs that underpin any given aural experiment are more than enough to make up for the lack of gloss, the band dishing out immaculately-placed jibes that slice to the bone and highlight a sharp, intellectual take on rock music that continues to prove you don’t have to dumb things down while letting your pop sensibilities win out.