'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'...
on 24 July 2001
This is the other definitive '77 punk album, with the Pistols "Nevermind..." being the first. Pink Flag contains the song structures, chord shapes and back beats from which all other punk records descend - consider it a punk template! The power transfers well to CD, unlike some other material from the same era. In my view, the only "weakness" here is the inclusion of the two "bonus tracks" ("Dot Dash" & "Options R" from "the rare stuff"), though these are not exactly rubbish, the space may have been better occupied by the live versions of "12XU" and "Lowdown" from the Vortex sessions. Your partner & neighbours will cringe - buy it!
The are not many 30 year old albums that sound more smart, vital, and up to date than anything currently being churned out. Time has revealed this as a genuine classic - and makes much of the guitar-pap being churned out by today's indie-poppers seem juvenile amd irrelevant. It's all very simple - fuzzy, churning, bounding guitars (sounding just like what the electric guitar was invented for), brilliant drumming and bass lines, and edgy, intelligent lyrics. If you don't like one track there will be another along in a minute - they don't overstay their welcome and leave you wanting more. Despite the plethora of tracks this album is consistently brilliant - you will play it all the way through and then go back again to the tracks you love best. I do not play any album more than I return to this one, and many of the tracks consistently make my 'best of' playlists. Much copied, totally influential, but never bettered. The central riff of 1,2,XU is worth your money alone - treat the rest as a bonus.
on 27 June 2008
With 21 tracks flying in at 35 minutes 'Pink Flag'-Wire's extraordinary 1977 debut album is a short,sharp shock to the system.Sometimes described or even mistaken as a punk album 'Pink Flag' is too controlled,intelligent and obtuse to be categorized with that musical movement.Even the most frantic tracks on the album 'Surgeon's Girl' and 'Mr Suit' are controlled by a tight,solid drum beat which never allows the music to stray nor get too angry or over-aggressive.The lyrics are oblique,thoughtful and when a point has been made in a song then that song is ended abruptly.Some songs such as 'Field Day For The Sundays','Brazil' and 'Straight Line' are less than 45 seconds long (short?).'Reuters' and the title track on the other hand slowly simmer to boiling point.Not one second of the album is wasted as these songs are packed with so many hooks and chord changes they are interesting,unforgettable and never boring.
Unpredictability is the name of Wire's game as the songs shoot off in all directions,the song titles are irrelevent to the lyrics and vice versa which makes it an intriguing and entertaining album.
Wire have always managed to squeeze the odd classic pop song into every album they have recorded and their debut is no exception as 'Fragile','Mannequin' and 'Feeling Called Love' are accessable pop songs.
Many of 'Pink Flag's' minimalist songs have influenced numerous groups since it's release.R.E.M. recorded 'Strange' for their demanding 1987 album 'Document' and Elastica stole the opening riff of 'Three Girl Rhumba'.
There are not many debut albums as refreshing,innovative and original as 'Pink Flag'.
Having just replaced my vinyl version of this 1977 debut album by Wire with the remastered CD version I was (slightly) amazed, listening again to the record after probably the best part of 20 years(!), at how fresh, vibrant and, indeed, inspired it sounds. In fact, these qualities in the overall (broadly minimalist) impression created by Pink Flag are, if anything, increased by the band's quirky and, at times almost amateurish, playing. Being released towards the end (December 1977) of the UK 'punk music explosion', the band (at various points) sound reminiscent of some early punk bands such as Howard Devoto-era Buzzcocks (particularly Colin Newman's vocals), The Adverts and (the similarly emerging) XTC. However, there are also other influences at play here, with similar robotic sounds to Krautrock and even a foretelling of Joy Division (probably mostly in their Warsaw incarnation, particularly on songs such as Reuters, Lowdown and the album title track). The sleeve-notes on the CD also make much of Wire's 'Art school credentials', and whilst there is undoubtedly something more 'ethereal' about Wire than pretty much any of their contemporaries, for me at least, bracketing them with The Velvet Underground (as examples of the most effective blend of art and rock) is a rather pointless (not to say, meaningless) exercise.
Of course, the other thing that is extremely unusual about Pink Flag is tunesmith Colin Newman and lyricist (and bassist) Graham Lewis' approach to song-writing. Whilst the punk music ethos was, of course, to eschew anything resembling a guitar solo (hence Pete Shelley's parodic two note solo on Boredom) and to cut songs down to their bare minimum, here Wire's 21 songs (with 6 running to less than 60 seconds) spanning Pink Flag's 35 minute duration even outdid those masters of the concise composition, The Ramones. For me, this approach lends Pink Flag something of a 'concept album' feel (but without its Tales From Topographic Oceans connotations, of course) and provides one of the most compelling and dynamic continuous listening experiences of any album (with not an ounce of flab). Indeed, although there are many songs here (Field Day For The Sundays, Three Girl Rhumba, It's So Obvious, 106 Beats That, Mr Suit, Fragile, Mannequin, Champs, Feeling Called Love and the legendary 12 X U, to name but 10) where, due to their brevity, you find yourself wondering whether the band have actually undersold themselves, it is, of course, precisely this brevity (plus, of course, the inherent melodic hooks and urgency, and Lewis' brilliantly witty and caustic lyrics) that make Pink Flag such a great record. Short and sweet is, though, not the only thing the band was capable of, as the serious undercurrents of the album's slower and sombre songs Reuters, Lowdown, Strange and the album's title song, amply demonstrate.
Certainly an essential album and one for whom my spate of recent listening is now prompting me to go up into the loft and try to dig out my vinyl copy of the follow-up, Chairs Missing.
on 23 January 2011
The best album to be released in 1977 and easily the best to come out of the UK 'punk' scene. All of which is highly ironic because in no way were Wire punks, instead they were died in the wool art-rockers who a few years earlier might have been turning out sub-Genesis drivel. What punk gave them was a liberating interest in speed and brevity. These 21 songs speed past in 35 minutes, which means the few tracks I don't care for whizz past without problem. Overall the songs are very strong and the bands interest in textures shines through. This reissue actually gets bonus points for dropping Dot Dash and Options R, which simply do not fit in. Wire went on to make much great music but no album as great as this, which still sounds like the pre-cursor to all that was best in post-punk.
on 6 February 2006
Disappointed by the Ramones albums? This album packs more songs in to less time, with genuinely witty and intelligent lyrics and inventive music. Pre-empting the post punk movement, Wire moved on from the tired nihilism and cliches of punk. Pink Flag is filled with plays on the song structure. 106 Beats That was originally intended to be a song of exactly 100 syllables, and the title track was supposed to be "Johnny B. Goode" written with one chord. Whilst the Sex Pistol's debut was carefully crafted in the studio, Pink Flag's clean production ensures that instruments carve out clean shapes through the mix. For Wire, there was to be no cashing in, as they moved on and continued to innovate over their next albums.
The first Wire fan I ever met told me that the great thing about this album was that if you didn't like a song you didn't have to wait long for it to end. It so happens that there are three epics of over three minutes long here, including the outstanding title track. More striking is the band's chameleonic nature. Many of the songs come across as punk rock stripped as naked as it could be. Yet the patient, plodding opening of the gloomy 'Reuters' belies such a tag, as does the prolonged ending with its 'rape' chant grinding to a halt. Not exactly art as The Sex Pistols would have understood it. Wire's worldview is as cynical but more incisive, sometimes oblique and mysterious. They don't always go for subtlety in the lyrics though, as the expletive-laden 'Mr Suit' proves.
Not allowing to let songs outstay their welcome and infusing them with so much dirt and energy is one of the positive aspects of the punk ethic. If there's a drawback, it is that some of the later songs on the album begin to sound rather like some of the ones you've already heard. Though 'Pink Flag' is a prominent milestone of the late 1970s, I find I prefer the slightly more mature follow-up, 'Chairs Missing'.
on 2 April 2013
This album is one of the greatest in punk and post-punk history. It anticipated the evolution of punk music in 1977, the same year "The Clash" (The Clash), "Damned Damned Damned" (The Damned), "The Idiot" (Iggy Pop), "L.A.M.F" (Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers) "Rocket To Russia" (The Ramones), "(I’m) Stranded" (The Saints), "Suicide" (Suicide), "Talking Heads 77" (Talking Heads), "Marquee Moon" (Television) were released.
on 17 May 2013
Never heard of Wire until I was reading something the other day about Punk pioneers, back when we was punks I would have loved this but somehow it passed me by. The music on here is punk that is about to become post punk whilst you are listening to it, the mind blowing and pre hardcore use of extra short songs is so ahead of the time. Sometimes music is able to span genre and time, PIL spring to mind and Wire are right up there with them.