Red Barked Tree
Release Date: Jan 11, 11
Back in the mid-to-late 1980’s there were only a handful of U.S. radio stations that played alternative music. That would change with the arrival of Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain, but before there was teen spirit to smell it wasn’t easy experience alternative music in many cities.
Stations like KROQ in Los Angeles, WHFS in Washington D.C., WFNX in Boston and a few others exposed their audiences to a lot of bands most of America never encountered. For every band like the Clash, The Talking Heads and Blondie that had some crossover success, there were bands like Sonic Youth, The Hoodoo Gurus and The Pixies that were appreciated by those in the know but never got onto the rest of America’s radar. Wire is one of those bands.
Originally formed in 1977, the band’s first three albums Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154 are considered to have played a role in expanding the boundaries of England’s punk scene with the use of synthesizers and unique song arrangements.
Now after a three-year layoff, the group returns with Red Barked Tree, an enjoyable though somewhat uneven release. The toughest part of listening to Red Barked Tree is getting past the first song, “Please Take.” It’s the worst of the bunch and, unfortunately, it’s first. So either grit your teeth or press the skip button and move on because there are much better songs ahead.
By track two, “A Flat Tent,” things start to pick up nicely. Tracks like ‘Now Was,” “Moreover,” “Two Minutes” and “Smash” come with strong, driving beats to back up (lead singers) vocals which sometimes are reminiscent of Robert Smith but in a good way and not to excess.
I personally prefer the up-tempo songs on Red Barked Tree but “Down to This” will warm the cockles of any Depeche Mode fan’s heart while the hook from the title track, for better or worse, burrows into your brain and can be very difficult to dislodge.
Overall, Red Barked Tree does a good job of mixing what Wire was back in the day with an updated more contemporary sound. A few tracks fall flat but overall, anyone pining away for, or wishing to experience, the pre-grunge alternative world, should consider checking out Red Barked Tree. It’s a nice, modern bridge to a time gone by.