Buddyhead Records' flagship act, Wires on Fire have returned in 2006 with their second, and decidedly different effort. This self-titled effort takes a lot of the bombast and spastic nature of the previous record and...transforms it. It’s not gone, it hasn’t been cut from the sound, but it’s portrayed in a decidedly different light this time around.
The songs are slowed down, and the musicianship is much more deliberate, much more rock‘n’roll. It begins with vocalist Evan Weiss, who exudes a real swagger and arrogance through his vocals that lends itself well to the new style and direction of the album. All the random and spastic freakouts that were found in the previous effort have been dropped in favor of a more brooding and volatile sound. At any particular moment, it sounds as if the riffing will lash out, the drums will thunder, and Weiss will let out a cathartic scream -- but it never comes. That brooding nature, however, will keep you on your toes in anticipation, while the songs keep on delivering.
Some tracks are able to hold on to a bit of the energetic feel forgone on this record, and “Sleeping Witches” portrays that truth quite nicely. The jagged riffing and howling vocals present a fragmented but oddly smooth song structure. The swirling dissonance and overall cacophony does seem a bit much to take in at first, but upon further listens, the groove settles into your subconscious, and you’re able to make perfect sense of the way it was all put together. That’s what was so well done on the first record, but, as mentioned many times already, things are quite different now.
The lounge jazz disposition of “Dusty Bibles Lead to Dirty Lives” is nothing if not a complete departure from Wires on Fire's sound.
Completely forgoing rock and rhythm for soul and slinky basslines, the band transforms their sound again, and the results are surprisingly engaging. While not a style expected of them, they’re able to not only do plenty with it, but keep it working fine into the ebb and flow of the record as a whole. “Dignity Points” picks the tempo back up right after, with a controlled amount of chaos. The vocals are as loud or frantic, the chord progressions are slower, but that volatile state of unrest is still there underneath it all.
A more varied, and strangely, more cohesive venture than the previous, Wires on Fire's newest represents a solid step forward for the band, albeit not one free of problems. It’s still slightly inconsistent, and Weiss’ vocals could be construed as grating to some, but neither of those issues are able to prevent a solid showing here.