Wire – Mind Hive (4 stars)

Wire: Mind Hive

Post-punk band's 17th album is a blend of unsettling relevance and flowing lyricism

With just a few years off here and there for good behaviour, Wire have been chipping away at the geopolitical coalface, gnawing at the foundations of capitalist consumerism and pushing back against the socio-political tide for over four decades. Their earliest dispatches, Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154, were re-issued last year, sounding as fresh and essential some 40 years on.

But a suave, subversive post-punk band's work is never done as evinced by the opening track of their 17th album. The sinister prowl of 'Be Like Them' unearths an unused lyric from 1977, and lobs it into 2020 with unsettling relevance to the negative forces of today. Wire have always been smarter than your average man-the-barricades pop polemicists, taking wider aim at global systems with their thought-provoking but claustrophobic response to the bigger picture.

Insidious corporate language is woven through the low-slung industrial punk-funk of 'Primed and Ready' but even when the oppressive atmosphere lifts on 'Off the Beach', this relatively blithe angular jangle is not entirely as it seems, its catchy chronicling of everyday life gradually zoning in on those clinging on at the fringes of society. There follows another dynamic shift to the flowing lyricism and pastoral psychedelia of 'Unrepentant'. This dovetails seamlessly into 'Shadows', where the contrast between a soothing ambient wash of the music and grim lyrics on genocide produces the darkest lullaby.

There is some levity in the John Cale-like gothic melodrama of 'Oklahoma' with its stand-out observation 'I admired your sexy hearse', before the epic, inexorable eight-minute grind of 'Hung' is unleashed. Still, the entire album is dispatched in a trim 35 minutes, rounding off with the delicate, plaintive 'Humming' which, like much of the album, makes a virtue of the contrast between Colin Newman's more declamatory delivery and the smooth background interjections of Graham Lewis.

Out now via pinkflag.

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Wire

The punk-rock ensemble return with their utterly distinctive sound, fusing attitude-filled punk with atmospheric alternative rock.

Islington Assembly Hall, London N1

Thu 21 May

£22 / 020 7527 8900

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