Wire has never been keen to dwell on the past: During one mid-period tour, they famously took a tribute band on tour to sate audiences’ desire for the early stuff. So it’s surprising at first that their 10th album — the fourth of their third phase — draws on material written three decades earlier.
The songs on Change Becomes Us date back to 1979 and ’80, when the band was falling apart for the first time. But rather than attempt to recapture their old sound, or whatever the next stage in its evolution might have been, they’ve combined the drifting lyricism of Red Barked Tree with the iron-fisted punch of Send, forging ahead with a creative renaissance as vital, if less concentrated, as their early years.
Between songs they’d played but never recorded and “sketches” in need of modern-day finishing, Change Becomes Us is naturally a patchwork affair: You can hear “I Am the Fly” in the creeping tick-tock of “Doubles & Trebles,” proto-hardcore in “Stealth of a Stork.” (The latter sounds oddly like a reworking of Elastica’s “Connection,” itself litigiously similar to Wire’s “Three Girl Rhumba.” What goes around comes around.)
The massive power chords that kick off “Adore Your Island” sound like Wire’s version of stadium rock, but then the tempo triples and the guitars go nuts, with Colin Newman and new member Matthew Simms scraping at their fretboards as if they’re trying to scramble aboard a life raft. Going back to their notebooks might suggest a failure of ideas, but the upshot is just the opposite: Proof that Wire still has inspiration to spare.