Post-punk mainstays Wire were never likely to rest on their laurels. In the late '70s, they refused to play songs from their triptych of classic albums, mutating their live shows into confrontational performance art spectacles. This spirit didn't subside as its members reached middle age, resulting in a late-career hot streak stretching from 2003's Send to last year's Nocturnal Koreans.
Unfortunately, Silver/Lead is a minor stumble in Wire's otherwise confident stride. The band's work has undoubtedly mellowed in recent years, but they've rarely turned in a set of songs as listless as this.
The blame here lies mostly with the production, which stifles any forward momentum. Extra parts don't justify their presence; they just clutter tracks instead. A quick tempo on "Sonic Lens" succumbs to a densely layered chorus that fails to provide any dynamic heft, while featherweight synths hardly rise above the din on "Forever & a Day." These excesses don't ruin the album, but they do bog it down.
It doesn't help that Wire have treaded this territory before. The band's lyrics have always been cryptic, but on the poppy "Diamonds in Cups," they feel less like proverbs and more like platitudes. Tracks like "An Alibi" and "Brio" still hold an obscure charm, but you don't have to go far back in the group's catalogue to find more arresting variants on the same formulas.
For a band as exploratory as Wire, repetition can be quite damning. Unlike their past efforts, though, Silver/Lead is sluggish when it needs to be spry and dull when it ought to be meditative. (Pink Flag)