For fans and newcomers to Wire alike, there’ll definitely be some trepidation regarding Nocturnal Koreans. It is described as a “mini-album” (their shortest full length album, clocking in at 26 minutes), having been assembled from the B-sides of last year’s eponymous album. The good news is that none of that really matters; it’s as engaging and experimental as post-punk albums get.
Although creatively consistent, each song has a distinctly different sound which only works because of how identifiable Wire’s unique lyrical style is. A song like “Internal Exile”, with its syncopated beat and palm muted acoustics would easily fit onto an album like “A Bell Is A Cup”, yet “Still” has much more in common sonically with the Pixies. In some ways they sound like a new band trying to figure out their own specific style, which is a delightfully bizarre thing for an acclaimed band who have already been going for 40 years.
Take for instance “Forward Position”, which is a stand out track featuring sparse percussion, restrained atmospheric guitars and heavy synths. It has way more in common with Pink Floyd than Pink Flag, which is weird for a Wire album but works perfectly on this particular Wire album. Or consider “Numbered” which starts out as “Wire tries out Krautrock”, until about half way through when it morphs into a kind of carnival melody because, well, why not. I won’t even try to explain “Fishes Bones” but it’s probably the most deliberately weird choice on the album, which is saying a lot.
There are lots of bands who can run on inertia and continue releasing albums far after they’ve ran out of ideas. On the other hand, I can’t really think of a compelling reason for Wire not to make another album.