Wire's saving grace has usually been the minimalist cleanliness of their structures, which have the undemonstrative firmness and cool solidity of Barnett Newman's colour-field canvases.
Red Barked Tree is a textbook lesson in how to pare things down to their essence, be it the mild, fragrant chording of "Please Take", the dream-pop soundscape of "Adapt", or the springy guitar groove of "Now Was". Best of all is "Clay", whose nagging guitar momentum creates one of Wire's classic descending hooks. Lyrically, the familiar air of calm aloofness works best on "Bad Worn Thing", with Graham Lewis's plummy tones replete with cool contempt for under-achievement: "They clip their speech, they clip your wings, the absent tribe of missing links". On this showing, the feral rage of their punk youth has matured into a pleasingly poised disaffection, with no loss of acuity.
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