Wire - Pink Flag
Wire, if you've not met them before, are one of the most influential and pure punk bands ever to thrash their way through a song. Far more than just a punk band, though, as they have consistently challenged the nature and expectations of their audience for the last twenty years. For example, for their last gig in the UK (yep, they're still going strong) saw them play at the Barbican Center and they performed their latest album, from start to finish from, er, inside boxes.
Pink Flag, though, is a great introduction to the band and if you ever wanted to know what was responsible for such things as Elastica, then just give Wire a listen and see where they stole their riffs from. A collection of 21 songs, some lasting as little as 28 seconds long, like the jagged and spiky Field Day For The Sundays and others lasting a near epic almost four minutes. Indeed, not one of the songs on this album lasts longer than four minutes and you can bet that's intentional.
A great many of the usual suspects known as punk classics are little more than stripped down and speeded up rock 'n' roll numbers. This is not the case with Wire, the songs rarely have any major chord progressions, relying simply on a phenomenal guitar sound. Listen to the throbbing, relentless grunge-like hum of the title track Pink Flag for evidence of this. Lowdown is also a great example of guitar work; it's a simple riff, repeated but then with an added refrain that kicks in half way through the song creating a haunting structure to a song that lasts a mere two and a half minutes. This is, without doubt, an album for guitar lovers, but there's very few guitar solos, perhaps one or two, but your most likely to get a burst of drums or something, such as on Pink Flag where the drum sounds seem to mimic the barrage of gunfire, and as the song is loosely about warfare, this is entirely intentional and effective.
Wire have other tricks up their sleeve, such as an almost instinctive understanding of song structure. As we have mentioned, many of the songs on here last for less than a minute or so, but they never sound too short. They simply pack an awful lot into a small space. This can create it's own problems. Don't think about listening to this album as background music, as it'll all be over before you realise what’s going on. You'll just have a buzz saw guitar sound in your head and the memory of some shouting. That's not to say it all sounds the same, it just demands careful listening, which is somewhat unusual for a punk band,
Wire are deserving of a place in any record collection and you'd do well to start with this album. It sounds at least fifteen years ahead of it's time. Songs like Mannequin with it's strangely out-of-place harmonies could have been recorded at any time in the last 25 years. On this CD, you also get two bonus tracks, Dot Dash and Option R, both of which are fine stompalongs. Wire are intelligent, articulate and always interesting; a brutal short, sharp, shock of a band that, once under your skin, are addictive.