Wire - Change Becomes Us

1977 – Pink Flag; 1978 – Chairs Missing; 1979 – 154 – a good string of albums from a little band named Wire, a trifecta of sorts, the consistency of which doesn’t come about so often nowadays. Those albums were a big deal, they changed things, and Wire were at the forefront of a shift in the way British music came about. Then they went a little bit mad; dropping material, dropping members and even dropping vowels from their name. But they came back around... Several times in fact; to the tune of 13 albums over 36 years.

In the context of Wire’s history, album number 13 should be the unlucky one, yet it’s an achievement worthy of some level of praise, and sitting alongside previous records this particular specimen certainly isn’t at the bottom of the pile. The problem being, at face value, Wire’s Change Becomes Us is a strange experience, from a band clearly producing a genre of decades past for the ears of those who experienced their youth in the alternative 80’s.

Change Becomes Us is another lengthy production from Wire. Quite random and hard to follow overall, it opens with the four minute ‘Doubles & Trebles’ that feels more like 14 minutes with its prog elements, before jumping and glitching out the minute and a half ‘Keep Exhaling’. This sets up the demeanour of the album overall – unsettled, unpredictable and simply quite odd.

‘Adore Your Island’ inflicts a grunge screech, ‘Stealth of a Stork’ drives a metal guitar backing, ‘B/W Silence’ laments with calm acoustic guitar, and ‘& Much Besides’ introduces the element of spoken word vocals – it’s almost too much to manage, and mostly even before the half way mark.

Colin Newman singing doesn’t do a huge deal of favours here, with his voice warped and manipulated, creating a false emotion on many tracks that’s often hard to believe (there are too many robotic alterations). When it does work, it’s against a simplistic ensemble, like the gentle guitar on ‘B/W Silence’ – a track that’s still hard to follow lyrically yet does create a contrast between the beautiful and the artificial to produce a strange melancholy.

The relevance of Change Becomes Us is questionable, but its nostalgic appeal – to remind you of when alternative music finally made its mark – makes it worth a listen, if only to marvel at Newman’s warped inspiration.
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