Using unfinished 30 year old snippets as the starting point, the post-punk legends make their most rewarding album since reforming.
It never feels accurate to describe Wire as reinventing themselves since their very foundation is built around constant experimentation and defying expectations. The band is always changing and evolving, but they never lose sight of their very distinct identity - you always know a Wire song (from any era) when you hear it. Throughout their on-again-off-again thirty five year career Wire have had an uneasy relationship with their past, which is why it was such a surprise to find out that their new album was built around unfinished song ideas from the end of their first era circa 1980.
Much of Change Becomes Us sounds like a continuation of what they were doing on the last album of their first era, 154 (as well as Colin Newman's first solo album, A-Z). But it hardly sounds like a museum piece or a nostalgic return to their past. Those thirty year old song blueprints are just the starting point to be reworked, rebuilt, and re imagined by a much more experienced band. I've never heard the live album Document And Eyewitness, where some of the original snippets appeared back in 1981, but from everything I've read most of the changes are pretty radical.
Wire's last album, 2011's Red Barked Tree, hinted at what Change Becomes Us delivers. That album had some wonderful moments, but most of it was missing the tension that is an essential part of Wire's sound. The new album is full of tension. Even the quieter songs have an edge (and occasionally even sound a little dangerous). As with the other post 2000 Wire releases, my early faves are the ones where they rock the fuck out. And they do that quite a bit this time round; recalling the intensity of the 2002 Read & Burn EPs and the 2003's Send album. But ultimately it's the slow burn of the more atmospheric pieces that showcase what Colin Newman, Robert Grey, and Graham Lewis (along with new guitarist Matt Simms) do better than anyone else.
Change Becomes Us is a record that any fan of Wire could love, no matter which era of their eclectic catalog you prefer. But it's also a very current sounding album from a band that finally sounds comfortable enough with its past to confidently twist it into its modern self.