Manscape finds Wire ditching the 'beat combo' approach and almost totally relying on technology; drums are entirely replaced with drum machines; samples replace live sounds and pieces are built inside the computers as much as outside it.
Despite the process being more agreeable with the bulk of the band (Gotobed quit after the album's completion) the results are somewhat varied. Small Black Reptile, which was even more impressive live, and Morning Bell show the desire to experiment is still present, but many of the tracks are fairly contemporary subdued dance tracks and, as such, are quite boring. Lyrically the album is strong and although on the surface the words may seem impenetrable, they often contain many intriguing cut-up stories. What do you See (Welcome) finds the narrator visiting their old neighbourhood, witnessing things in a surreal air: 'Look down the street: a young boy hunting butterflies/He swallows one/He swallows two/But that's not enough'.
The album also has a chance to finish well with the interesting, space-age sound of Children of Groceries and the stunning You Hung your Lights in the Trees/A Craftsman's Touch which, at 14 minutes long, rivals Crazy About Love as Wire's lengthiest track. However, upon listening to the whole collection it's obvious that this album's parts are often better than the whole. Perhaps Wire should have listened to the words of Goodbye Ploy, avoiding 'the third rate butcher's dance hall mix' and followed a slightly more experimental and therefore more Wire-like path.
Craig Grannell (1998)