Wire – Pink Flag

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

One of a few albums that I straight up bought off my friend Duke, I don’t really listen to this often but I do like it a lot, and what’s more, I respect it immensely. I investigated some other Wire but none of it stuck. I just preferred the stark approach of their debut.

What I Think of This Album

Tense, terse, and taut. This is punk; this is the apotheosis of punk; this is the Platonic ideal of punk. And yet, it is more. You would be best served to absorb the album in one sitting. It won’t take long. The band spits out 21 songs in just over 35 minutes; six tracks don’t make it to the minute mark, and another nine come in under two. Wire says what it has to say and does what it wants to do and then moves on. This is as minimalist as it gets – literally, not a second is wasted, and concepts like verses and choruses have no currency here.

The album functions as a true collection – you can just let each song jab you in the face and you will come out of it transformed, if not necessarily happier. Much of this is disturbing and difficult. Indeed, “Reuters” may be the most harrowing song I’ve ever heard. And this gets to the heart of Wire’s genius. Because within the songs of Pink Flag there is a tremendous amount of creativity and innovation.

Trebly dirge “Reuters” is an ominous report of an apocalyptic scenario that succums to the chilling background chant of “rape.” “Field Day for the Sundays” is 28 seconds of stop/start bile directed at Britain’s trashy newspapers. Elastica lifted the iconic riff from “Three Girl Rhumba,” but not the surreality communicated by the lyrics or the coiled charge of the music; Robert Gotobed’s drumming here is excellent. Things skew closer to traditional punk on “Ex-Lion Tamer,” mockingly instructing the listener to “stay close to your t.v. set.” Extreme existential angst dominates “Lowdown,” which rides a repetitive, bluesy riff, before it explodes and then hammers the riff again. “Start to Move” is a chord-hopping bit of punk, and “Brazil” is the weirdest love song ever.

Hardcore owes something to the frantic, pummeling “Surgeon’s Girl.” The title track is one of the longer songs on the album, starts and ends with an exploration of texture and in between adds extreme noise and a gritty groove. There is almost a 50’s style to the chords and rhythm of instrumental “The Commercial.” “Straight Line” is punk-pop, and the guitars of “106 Beats That” are amazing. Hardcore again pops up on the angry “Mr. Suit.” REM famously covered “Strange,” which is basically a distorted mid-tempo groove with paranoid, anxious lyrics; apparently, there is a guest flute on here but I’ll be damned if I can hear anything that sounds remotely flute-like.

There is a substantial nod to melody in the last quarter of the album. “Fragile” has a poppy chord progression, and “Mannequin” is basically power-pop (with “ooo-oooo”s, even), though mean-spirited and cutting, and has been covered by Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Lush, and fIREHOSE. The band again displays melodic gifts on the driving “Champs” and on the smug, disdainful “Feeling Called Love.” Finally, kiss-off “12xU” rapidly says its piece; Minor Threat covered this. Needless to say, this album is a punk classic.

The Best Thing About This Album

All of it – just the sheer inventiveness compressed into 90 second songs and spread across 21 tracks.

Release Date

November, 1977

The Cover Art

Awesome. Just as stark and striking as the music inside. The obvious fakeness of the flag makes it even better. The sky on the real art is actually a far brighter blue than what is shown here, and the foreground is more of a slate grey than this brown.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑