"The phrase `criminally neglected' has never been more apt than in Wire's case. Personally I find it absolutely incomprehensible how music this beautiful and intriguing can remain unrecognised for so long, while unmusical and artless outfits like New Order get hailed as cultural giants. Perhaps if Messrs Lewis, Gotobed, Gilbert and Newman came from Manchester instead of London, their success would have been instant. Although Manscape may not represent the band's creative zenith (see predecessors Ideal Copy and A Bell is a Cup Until It is Struck) it's still a really good record in terms of songwriting and creative arrangements. Manscape is the most accessible but also the most unfairly maligned of all Wire albums to date. The main bone of contention among critics and disgruntled fans (Wire's own worst enemy) is the new crisp, digital production and programmed drum tracks. A glossy sheen for glossy times. This mechanised approach works quite well on up-tempo songs like You Hung Your Lights, Torch It! and What Do You See?, but not on the evocative ballads like Other Moments where the static beat kills the natural dynamic of the song. A crying shame as it's one of Wire's best tunes (drummer Robert Gotobed left after this record, exasperated perhaps with what technology was doing both to the music and his job security). Manscape is not a perfect record like its two predecessors, but is essential for fans of Joy Division, New Order, Depeche Mode, The Editors and Interpol. Beginners should go straight to a Bell Is A Cup Until It Is Struck.
It really is kind of lame...
voomer | San Francisco, CA USA | 10/17/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Ok, I appreciate the positive reviewers' attempts to put a nice spin on this record, and I do think Wire was trying to do something good, and I do think there are isolated striking sounds and songs, but it really is a pretty lame record on the whole. I have nothing against electronic pop, but the songs are just not really interesting, and the overall feel is pretty silly. I disagree with the reviewer who suggested this compares favorably to New Order. Through the album Technique, New Order had much better, and much more emotionally evocative songs. Arguably, Manscape at times sounds a bit like New Order from the album Republic on, which is not a compliment. Again, I don't knock Wire for doing something completely different, but this really is not a good record."
Completely underrated album...by many others
C. J. Van Hall | Arnhem, The Netherlands | 07/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Strangely underrated album. But then, I never seem to agree with other peoples opinion. Not even that of Wire-diggers.
It's a remarkable album and the over-sweet Bell is a Cup is replaced by songs, that stand out more and get much closer...by getting under your skin after a while. There's so much more music feel and emotional input/output in the songs itself, that I'm glad that Wire came back ...during their com back-phase. (Yes. I also do like First Letter a lot) Give Manscape a re-listen or get into it, and play A Bell is a Cup next to it. See what you think... It will stand out without comparison though. That's what good music is all about.
Songs like 'Patterns of Behaviour', 'What do you See', 'Goodbey Ploy', 'Sixth Sense', You Hung your Lights in the Trees...' are among the very best Wire songs till this days. Some even beat 154 material. (Re-)listen to it. I think I'm right here. It's just overlooked, underrated, and sniffled upon the distant way. That's my guess for its almost vulgar underrating for such intense craftmanship."
Amen to other defenders of this album
Said Head | MN, USA | 12/16/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"XS and Mons sum it up well; you'll either hate this album or it'll grow on you.
I think the song-writing is great too, and most electronic-tinged albums, or rock albums for that matter, effective lyrics are seldom and low priority. In that department Wire have never missed a step, and if that is the only thing someone can take from this album, then so be it.
Musically, though, the album does sound out of date. A lot of 80's electronica production, you'd think that you were listening to new wave with this, but that is the kind of overpopularized nonsense that Wire stay clear from. I wouldn't compare this album much to New Order, like I saw another reviewer do, but rather I'd compare it to the likes of Depeche Mode, but whenever I think about it I shake my head and get utterly confused; Wire's music has never sounded like anyone else's, and to compare acts is just an insult to them.
And hell yeah Wire never get enough credit! Their music is groundbreaking, whethere it's this album or Pink Flag or one of the member's many side projects, Wire are always at the helm of creativity.
Now, onto the album: I am slightly torn between some of the songs. I honestly really dislike the track 'Morning Bell', I try but I just can't get into it, but the rest of the tracks, in my opinion, cascade from being good to great. It's a shame that only one song on Manscape made it onto the A-List compilation, but 'Torch It' is definitely worth it. One of my favorite Wire songs would have to be A Craftman's Touch, it's brilliant. I admit the album gets a little weak in the middle, but picks up heavily with the surreal sounds of 'Sixth Sense' and 'Children of Groceries'.
I also find the album's one single, 'Life In the Manscape', to be a pinnacle peak of this albums strength. Upon the first few listens it sounds a bit cheesy in a way, but after that you really do start to hear the sound they were going for and you'll love. And one song that always gets me every time I hear it is the enigmatic 'Small Black Reptile'. Obviously there are many points in this album not to be missed, even for more casual fans.
There are a few tracks that I would have rather seen replaced by the album's b-sides, and if you can get your hand on those, I'd recommend it greatly, because they're incredible songs."