Managing to cram 21 tracks into 35 minutes, Wire's debut, Pink Flag, is an angular and cold album that is played with remarkable precision for a band that claimed to be quite unskilled at the time of recording.
12 of the tracks clock in at less than 90 seconds, running out, according to Graham Lewis, 'when they ran out of words'. At live Wire gigs fans would be caught in mid-pogo and the album tracks have a similar effect, almost seeming like snatches of pieces, full of potential but rarely realised. When Wire gives itself more breathing space it pays dividends, such as the chilling Reuters and the prettiest song ever by a punk band, Fragile.
Although Wire didn't consider itself a Punk per se, many of punk's concerns are covered on the album: a hatred of the media (Field Day for the Sundays), politics (Reuters, Pink Flag) and sex (12XU). The difference with this album is in the way certain things are dealt with. Lyrics become cut-ups, as if taken from the press or a documentary script. Profanity has largely been censored, most obviously in 12XU: the X replacing the often obligatory 'f*ck'. The three-minute guitar thrash on top of a contemporary verse-chorus-verse-chorus arrangement is also largely absent.
However, despite its sheer energy, witty lyrics and the fact that it hangs together pretty well, the reality is that most of the pieces are far too short. Much of the album tends to sound a bit samey with one short guitar thrash giving way to another... One really welcomes it when the chilling menace of Strange appears—a downbeat and rather sombre piece that feels a little out of place amongst the blurs.
Despite the brevity of the pieces and clever texts, this is still a punk album. It has lyrics about sex, angst, and the government. It has noisy, thrashy guitars, and monotone drum patterns. It just has better lyrics and shorter songs.
Craig Grannell (1998)