Wire – Pink Flag
-By Kyle J. Rainville
I’m somewhat ashamed to admit this, but I didn’t get into Wire’s music until I was in college. It was in my first year of college that I decided to buy myself a copy of Pink Flag. I didn’t exactly know what to expect as the album has been described as punk by some, post-punk by others, and art-rock by others yet. Needless to say, after repeated listens, I can safely say this is not post-punk. In fact, throughout the album, Wire make an indelible mark on the listener by blurring the lines between art-rock and punk. The amount of ideas, melodies, structures, and rhythms present here is simply staggering.
Pink Flag was actually released a mere two months after the Sex Pistols debut in 1977. Wire was not that similar to the Sex Pistols other than the fact that they both played music in the same genre. Wire were much more apparent in their intelligence and creativity which perhaps stems from their art-school background. Colin Newman is the vocalist and he’s quite accented which can make what he says sometimes a bit difficult to understand. That aside, even if you do understand exactly what he’s saying, you may find yourself confused trying to interpret his words. Wire are a bit of an abstract band but there are certainly some songs that are easier to figure out than others. From what I can gain, subjects this album covers include media censorship, love, sex, over-reliance on technology and the resulting dehumanization of society and furthered media control, fear and paranoia, the purchase of a car, the slave trade, and the post-apocalyptic entropy that ensues after a disaster.
Taking all of those things in, one can correctly make the assumption that Wire were just as creative in their music as they are in their lyrics. Not a single song on this album breaches the four minute mark and five of the songs are less than a minute long. I’ve heard many say that because of this, the album is fairly immediate. I found the opposite to be true. Because the songs were so short, I had difficulty latching onto anything the first few listens of it. Eventually though, everything starts to properly sink in: even though it doesn’t initially seem like it, this album is bursting at the seams with subtle melodies, infectious hooks, epic builds, and grand climaxes.
Some songs are fast, some slow and seething, some are angry punk explosions, and others are a bit more telling of a story or history itself with the lyrical selection. The sequencing of the album is most definitely calculated and it never seems to lose steam. Even now, I’d say that this remains one of the most impressive and creative debut albums I’ve heard.
Conclusion: I don’t know why it took me until college to get into these guys. I suppose college is a fitting place to start listening to a band as creative, arty, and thought-provoking as Wire though. Pink Flag suffered a bit from journalistic inadequacy and poor coverage but it’s rightfully gone on to become somewhat of a cult-classic with a large following. This album’s influence is immensely grand; from R.E.M. and the Lemonheads doing covers to the Minutemen adopting the Pink Flag musical aesthetic to Elastica straight ripping them off, Wire inspired countless artists with their music. I’ve only had the chance to grow with this album for about a year so I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up bumping its rating up in due time. The best thing of all though is that in the years after Pink Flag, Wire’s music only got more interesting…
Best Tracks: Reuters, Three Girl Rhumba, Ex-Lion Tamer, Start to Move, Pink Flag, 106 Beats That, Strange, Fragile, 12XU