Wire are releasing a new mini-album called Nocturnal Koreans this week, and have given us a rundown in our latest Track By Track guide.
The band's Colin Newman (vocals, guitar) and Graham Lewis (bass, vocals) have given us some insight into the new music's inner machinations. The project sees the venerated alt. vets continue their push forwards with a out-of-the-box instrumentation, big pop moments, and politically charged lyrics that border upon the surreal.
At the outset, Wire explained that their recent self-titled album was "quite respectful of the band" whereas "Nocturnal Koreans is less respectful of the band - or, more accurately, it’s the band being less respectful to itself - in that it’s more created in the studio, rather than recorded basically as the band played it, which was mostly the case with WIRE. A general rule for this record was: any trickery is fair game, if it makes it sound better.”
Listen to the mini-LP's title track below, and then read the guide after.
Condemned to stay, not one but two nights, in a shabby hotel in Massachusetts, a touring Wire found itself billeted with cracker barrel redneck xstalmeth heads, a Pan-African evangelical convention and the ultra-Christian Koreans of the title. The Koreans were seriously jet-lagged, stranded and somnambulant with wrecked travel plans, hence Nocturnal as yours truly. Something like Scooby Doo/The Partridge Family having a bad trip directed by John Waters on a budget… obviously, a subject matter gift for a song. [Graham Lewis]
Developed from a verse with a three-note guitar figure over a descending bassline set against chorus of simple chords, this track is perhaps the most realised on the mini-album. Made lush by a keyboard arrangement which gives a perfect backdrop for trumpet and lap steel, the song concerns thwarted aspiration of the many. [Colin Newman]
I own two baritone guitars, one is the lighter sounding Danelectro used on the title track (as well as a few tracks on the last album) the other is an Eastwood which is much heavier sounding and was used to write this song. It gives the song some low/mid gravitas which was later leavened by the almost psychedelic keyboard/guitar arrangement. It’s got a 'heavy soul' vibe IMO which is definitely a new direction for Wire! [Newman]
I started writing the text in 2009… An immigrant/refugee/terrorist/freedom fighter (delete to suit your prejudice) ruminates on his/her fate when surrounded by a closing hostile force. My personal favourite pop song on the album. [Lewis]
It took a long time to get this one right, but I must say i’m really pleased by how it came out. The arrangement grows nicely. [Newman]
What appears to be an unlikely welding of two disparate parts was in fact written as one piece. Matt’s suggestion to start with the 'verse' gives a spiky dynamic from the off; each part just developed naturally to give the final piece its unusual shape. An odd journey which is all done in 2:31 makes this very Wire. [Newman]
Graham provided a fantastically minimal and disjointed text which I responded to without a lot of thinking about the how and why. Probably the easiest song to write on the whole album. On the the other hand it’s a major chord anthem, which is definitely not Wire’s usual bill of fare, so everyone else had misgivings. I just knew it could work and the decision to go heavy rather than lush with the guitars definitely took it to where it needed to go. Both heavy and lush! Can’t argue with that. One of my favourite tracks. [Newman]
The text was written in Rome/Roma whilst observing the city's (both ancient and modern) trade, Pilgrims. [Lewis]
The song was written on mandola (a mandolin is a small mandola like a violin is a small viola), christened 'Nelson’s Mandola' by Graham (well it keeps us amused!). This was a piece that really benefitted from a second attempt at the drums by Robert, the arrangement just built from there on in. [Newman]
Did you know that like trees, one can age a fish by counting the growth rings in a cross section of its bones? [Lewis]
Nocturnal Koreans is out 29 April on pinkflag. You can listen to it below.