Wire Polishes Off a Batch of Strays

Originally intended for release on Record Store Day, now that that’s been further postponed and subdivided Wire are saying screw it and going ahead with the wide release of their new album 10:20 on June 19, via their pinkflag label. Although as is the case with several other Wire albums, “new” requires an asterisk.

A group that has regularly made a habit of reassessing and reinventing its catalog (whether for albums, single mixes or live), in spirit Wire’s 18th studio album lines up somewhat within the mindset of 1989’s It’s Beginning To And Back Again, 1991’s Drill and, to a lesser extent, 2013’s Change Becomes Us. The band describes 10:20 as a collection of strays – basically it’s a mix of tracks that were demoed or sketched out for prior albums that have finally gotten a full studio treatment, tracks that were recorded but left off of prior albums, and reworked versions of songs that have already been released.

So, for example, we are treated to “He Knows,” developed in 2000 when Bruce Gilbert was still in the band, and frequently played live in later years, but never released in studio form until now. “Underwater Experiences,” originally demoed for the band’s second album Chairs Missing in 1978, heard on the ’81 live album Document and Eyewitness and reworked for Change Becomes Us as “Attractive Space,” is now presented in a previously unheard version recorded in 2010. “Wolf Collides” was performed live in 2015 and recorded for but left off of 2017’s Silver/Lead. “Over Theirs” from 1987’s The Ideal Copy is heard in a newly revamped version. And we get what seems like the umpteenth evolutions of late ‘80s tracks “Boiling Boy” and “German Shepherds.”

So far, two tastes of 10:20 have been revealed for fans: a new incarnation of “Small Black Reptile,” originally from 1990’s Manscape, and a fully-grown studio recording of “The Art of Persistence,” previously only available as a rehearsal run-through on out-of-print EP The Third Day or as a live version on Recycling Sherwood Forest.

All of the above will undoubtedly strike the unconverted as a bunch of completist fanboy ho-hum. Be that as it may, anyone who’s followed Wire for any significant amount of time knows by now that they never stop moving forward, even when glancing backwards.

Photo by Giuliana Covella.