"One Of Us" by Wire
Calling anything a "return to form" by Wire would be ignoring that the band has no form—its career has been dedicated to reinvention, moving from the angular punk stabs of Pink Flag to the fractured pop of Chairs Missing to its dalliance with danceable new wave. The last time Wire rose from the ashes (for 2003's Send), it was through a haze of violent noise: the sharp young blades reborn as grumpy old men. For its eleventh album—which the band, ever minimalist, dutifully notes as its 47th release—those gruffer tendencies have subsided, perhaps because the band lost guitarist/notorious crank Bruce Gilbert. Instead, brightly melodic, Madchester-esque tunes like "One Of Us," "Perspex Icon," and "Four Long Years" are marked by a deadpan wit suggesting a band that's learned to scoff at, rather than rail against, the world again: Check Graham Lewis' turn on "Are You Ready?" which turns corporate clichés like "Are you part of the problem or part of the plan?" into a witty excoriation of post-millennial emptiness. That hectoring tone is a Wire trademark—few other bands love the question mark as much as these guys—but it only goes from arch to annoying on the sole dud, "Patient Flees" (marred by Colin Newman's rhyme scheme, a grating bit of wordplay reminiscent of Adam Sandler's Cajun Man). That misstep aside, no band mocks harder, and Object 47 is a smartly sardonic piece of work on par with Wire's late-'70s heyday.