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Nocturnal Koreans

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Album Review

Wire reaped rich creative rewards in the 2010s by revisiting and reinventing their past. On 2013's Change Becomes Us, the band gave a batch of songs from 1979 and 1980 the studio treatment with results that balanced their art-punk heyday and their more contemplative 21st century sound brilliantly. Wire don't look back quite as far on the mini-album Nocturnal Koreans, but their (re)inventive spirit serves them well once again. They developed these songs while working on 2015's Wire, setting them aside to add more elaborate sonics, or as the band put it, "studio trickery." Sometimes this trickery is subtle: "Nocturnal Koreans" takes Wire's whispery intensity in a slightly lusher direction, serving as a bridge between that album and more elaborate tracks like "Internal Exile," which incorporates lap steel and trumpet — two instruments not usually associated with the band's palette — into an anthem of futility that imbues Wire's 2010s malaise with a more organic, affecting feel. While Nocturnal Koreans may be more embellished, there's no filler within its 26 minutes. Interestingly, it's also more immediate than its more straightforward predecessor. Wire's songs were so cohesive that they took several listens to penetrate fully, but hearing the band widen its sounds and moods — and subvert expectations — offers instant gratification. The jabbing riffs on "Numbered"'s verses (as well as lyrics like “You think I’m a number/Still willing to rhumba”) are classic Wire, and are soon overtaken by a galloping Krautrock beat and droning electronics. Meanwhile, "Still"'s doubled drums and major chords give it a swagger that nevertheless feels of a piece with the band's incisive, questioning attitude. Nocturnal Koreans also finds Wire expressing that attitude with more emotional range than they have in a while, whether on the haunting "Forward Position," where Colin Newman intones “I am black box, I remember/Every promise that you broke,” or on the surreal "Fishes Bones," where Graham Lewis' declamatory vocals lead the rest of the band into increasingly psychedelic territory. Even if Nocturnal Koreans' sound isn't always textbook Wire, its imagery and wit most certainly are, making the album much more than the collection of leftovers its origins might have suggested.

Customer Reviews

Wire at Their Abolute Best

BRILLIANT!

Afterthought?

Coming quickly on the heels of '15s amazing WIRE, I was skeptical of this release...Oh my brothers,
fear not! In just 8 songs, NOCTURNAL completely pummels and sears the neurons...(cue: "Dead Weight"). Alongside
SEND and OBJECT 47, this is the best of the "new-century Wire". Long may they reign as the most
influential English group...bar none!

The La-Dee-dah, laid back pop trend continues.

This isn't Read & Burn or Ideal Copy by any stretch of the imagination. If your ears crave the hard edged Mr Suit 12XU sounding Wire look elsewhere. This LP is more of that recently trending EZ listening Wire you want on the headphones in the dental chair while they drill, drill, drill. Great for drifting off in a NO2 induced haze while you get your wisdoms yanked out but again it ain't like that Drill, Drill, Drill, Dugga, Dugga, Dugga sounding Wire you know and love from days of yore. Look, I'm not against a band changing up the sound or evolving but in the process don't shave off the hard edges just 'cause you're spending more time in the day room in your dotage. A greater man with a beef in his heart once said, Safe As Milk.

Biography

Formed: 1976 in London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Wire emerged out of the British punk explosion but, from the outset and decades after, maintained a distance from that scene and resisted easy categorization. While punk rapidly became a caricature of itself, Wire's musical identity -- focused on experimentation and process -- was constantly metamorphosing. Their first three albums alone attest to a startling evolution as the band repeatedly reinvented itself between 1977 and 1979. That capacity for self-reinvention, coupled with a willingness to...
Full Bio