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1977's classic debut...,
This review is from: Pink Flag (Remaster 2006) (Audio CD)
'Pink Flag' was Wire's debut album originally released in 1977 and now in its second/third reissue incarnation. Whilst a writer like Jon Savage celebrated them at the time, it appears that they were viewed with disdain for being signed to prog/Floyd-associated label Harvest (the later albums 'Chairs Missing' & '154' viewed like Magazine's second LP as prog!). 'Pink Flag' is something else entirerly, it's punk...but it's not punk - perhaps you could imagine The Ramones' brevity colliding with Captain Beefheart's angular-template 'Clear Spot' - which I always saw as the template for something like 'Marquee Moon' and this. 'Pink Flag' is a cult favourite and in the 1980s even attracted a tribute act the Ex-Lion Tamers who played it note for note live (Wire at the time didn't play anything from the Harvest years, preferring to play their latest LP, or its unreleased follow-up). The notion that all the songs are 30-seconds to a minute or so might be true of many tracks here - 'Mr Suit', 'It's So Obvious', 'Field Day for the Sundays', 'Three Girl Rhumba', 'Straight Line' (up there with anything on 'Spiral Scratch'), the mighty '12XU'...but this overlooks the more developed tracks which were heading for the plains explored on the subsequent two albums.
Opener 'Reuters' has more in common with later, sinister post-punk tracks like 'A Touching Display' or 'Heartbeat' - chiming guitars building to a mid-paced dirge as Newman sounds decidely unhinged. This is Joy Division before Joy Divison! Likewise, 'Strange' is not an angular-punk minimalist-thrash, but avant-pop that set the template Wire had for alien-pop (later examples of this would include 'I am the Fly', 'Outdoor Miner', 'Map Ref...', Newman/Lewis' 'Not Me', 'Kidney Bingos', 'Eardrum Buzz', 'Ahead' etc). 'Strange' probably found more fame when R.E.M. covered it on their breakthrough LP 'Document # 5' (1987) - shame as their version was awful! 'Pink Flag' has also been covered by others incidentally - Elastica's 'Connection' is basically 'Three Girl Rhumba' (I am sure this is reflected in the current publishing status of 'Connection'), Mudhoney made a reference to 'Lowdown' at the end of 1990's 'When Tomorrow Hits' and straight-edge pioneers Minor Threat covered '12XU' (as did Elastica). Meanwhile, Wire weren't unafraid to invoke prior material - 'Feeling Called Love' (a title that was reflected upon on Pulp's 'A Different Class') warrants its description by Jon Savage as " 'Wild Thing' sideways".
'Pink Flag' sounds fine today, it's packed with joys - 'Mannequin', 'Lowdown', 'Ex Lion Tamer', '106 Beats That' and the terminally great '12XU' which is one of the greater definitions of punk-rock: SAW YOU IN A MAG KISSING A MAN, SAW YOU IN A MAG KISSING A MAN...12XU!!!! Great material more than worth rediscovering, especially when art-punk, punk-rock, and post-punk are all in vogue with bands like Bloc Party, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol & Spoon (& reissues of work by Scritti Politti, The Fall, Orange Juice, Adam & the Ants, Delta 5 etc). Next stop: 'Chairs Missing'...