A line-drive double
It seems strange to assert that Wire has ever done anything predictable. Throughout their forty-plus year existence, the band has garnered an impeccable reputation for the unpredictable and the unexpected. This record, Mind Hive is somewhat of a line drive straight down the middle. It is oddly predictable and easily comprehensible, but that does not in any way make it unexceptional.
As a rule, this album is much stronger in the front half. The opening track “Be Like Them” is an absolute ripper of a track and leans on grinding guitars and staccato vocal delivery. When the vocals finally smooth out they lean into a whispering menace. Overall it calls to mind something a hard rock band may have put out a few years ago but there is far more personality in this track than most hard rock bands were ever capable of mustering. “Cactused” takes a more relaxed approach to music than “Be Like Them” does. It’s not entirely dissimilar to an Angles-era Strokes track, but Wire’s grinding guitars keep it from roaming into the realm of kitsch.
While the front half of the record is the better of the two halves, that is not to say that the latter half is entirely unsuccessful. Actually the best song on the record is contained within the back half of the record, the nearly eight-minute opus “Hung.” What “Hung” does that so many lengthy tracks forget to do is earn its length. Most tracks are content to build a slow steady atmosphere and never shift, but “Hung” is a constantly shifting monolith of a track that goes through several movements all while holding a consistent, steady drum beat and atmosphere that help to connect the track within itself.
Ultimately, Mind Hive is an immensely successful record. Perhaps the only real flaw it possesses is being part of Wire’s discography. When you’re going up against records like Pink Flag it becomes impossible to simply look at the existing work without the context of its predecessors. As such this album hits a solid double, straight down the middle. It’s no home run but it certainly gets itself on base and enters the year as one of the more enjoyable albums of 2020.