|WIRE release their groundbreaking debut album "Pink Flag. The world of Wire...Bleak, morbid, but mesmerising The twenty-one songs flash by quickly. Songs with unheard of chord structures, built more like aural sculptures than pop melodies. It's unusual stuff and the music papers are talking about it as the "album of the year." The photo on the cover was taken by a friend of theirs in Plymouth, UK last July. They had a notion about a flag and pole, just the stark image. Walking along the road they saw it. Just like that, a gift.
Wire are Colin Newman on vocals, Robert Gotobed on drums, B.C. Gilbert on guitar and Craig Lewis on bass.
WIRE 'Pink Flag' (Harvest SHSP 4076) *****
1977 — THE YEAR of the superlative continues. New Wave/new music fans out, as predicted. Only a fool would think of it still as just the sound of tractors and screaming morons (even though some of the early Ramones clones still survive down at the Pogo-A-Go-Go). Do you still need the rantings of quarter-baked politicos to tell you that there's something wrong with today?
Now there is a whole bunch of groups that tell you about Now by playing their music, showing situations and styles that kick all the waste age slogans and gung gung sound beyond the positive event horizon. There are a dozen such bands (including X-Ray Spex, The Slits, The Buzzcocks, Subway Sect, TV, Siouxsie And The Banshees amongst others). There's also Wire. They started playing together less than a year ago and their debut album 'Pink Flag' stands apart from this year's other new releases as hearteningly as Roxy Music's debut stood out from the pack in 1972. You will remember Wire from the 'Roxy London WC2' (memorial) album on which they distinguished themselves with the record's only 'slow' track, 'Lowdown', a relentless lurch through the stale tedium of one of life's hypnotically grey phases: 'Another cigarette, another day, from A to B, again avoiding C, D and E'
Vocalist Colin's bland throatiness almost reciting the lyrics over bassist Lewis's ponderous pendulum-swing riff, sawing up with B.C. Gilbert's grunchy guitar to climax on the payoff line: 'Drowning in the big swim, rising to the surface, that's the lowdown'
When almost everybody else was coming on with amphetamined electric lawnmower guitar frenzy and demented raving vocals, Wire had the effrontery to play a slow number. The 'Roxy' album also included their excellent '12XU', an observation on cottage life. This is more like your usual Roxy fare, well, it's at a tempo you can bounce up and down to and it almost starts with onetwothreefour, in fact one-twoexyou. The vocal this time is simply a chant, a repetition of the words 'Saw you in a mag, kissing a man' over another simple combination of empty jangling guitar chord, two-note bass and Rob Gotobed's sparse, direct on-beat drumming. Again the whole thing erupts in a finale of sawing guitar behind a different chant and ends, as many of Wire's songs, with a dead stop.
The overall effect of the two songs is bleak and mesmerising, and more than anyone else on the album they registered with a very unique style owing very little to any of the usually named precursors of UK punk — Dolls, Stooges etc. Inevitably someone at EMI copped this and they were signed for this album.
The album is going to get quite a few people who like their punk fast and messy very uptight. It opens with an almost morbid minor-chord stunner called 'Reuters' which relates a depressing frontline report from an unnamed warzone that builds in power to thunderous proportions only to recede to a militaristic chant of 'Rape, rape, rape'.
Not what you'd expect from an album sporting 21 tracks huh? (Yeah, 21 tracks). Betcha thought they'd all be short and snappy. Well, one of Wire's greatest attributes is that they've got the balls not to abuse a good idea, and a song that's good for 29 seconds ain't allowed to become boring for two-and-half minutes. Take the second track, 'Field Day For The Sundays', it's a very straightforward, nattily phrased comment on the power of the News Of The Screws/Sun brand of popular press: 'I wanne be a field day for the Sundays, So they can fuck up my life, embarrass my wife, and leave a bad taste.. . .. . I wanna be a target for the dailies, so they can show, pictures of me, with a nude on page 3, so lacking in taste.' and a beautifully wry closing line 'Touched up near the waist, looking as limp as Monday morning'
A witty uncluttered view bounced out lightly in 29 seconds, and it works very well in contrast to the leaden paranoia and despair of the opening track. Next comes another 'slow' song, the tantalising 'Three Girl Rhumba', and although I ain't no Latin American dancing ace I reckon you can rhumba to it. Again it features the hypnotic Wire treatment, a stern straightforward bass line insinuates itself in your cranium and Colin takes an alliteration strung together lyric of rhumbas, numbers, somethings and nothings to get you involuntarily hooked and swaying like a zombie.
With twentyone tracks it is impossible to describe them all with justice in the space available here, but there are some alarming excursions into familiar pop territory that are gonna confuse a lot of people. For one the band's nominated single choice, 'Manequin', complete with cine melody, ooh-oohs and la-lahs set beneath a very unlovely lyric. And there's the terrific salute to today's disposable heroes, 'Champs'. And '12XU' and 'Lowdown' and one song that actually starts with onetwothreefour! the excellent slag-off, 'Mr Suit'. The album has a scale and feel of it's own - totaly unique.. I can't recommend it enough. It's not like anything you've heard and it'll leave its mark for a long time.
- (Dave Fudger - Sounds November 12th 1977).
manager Malcolm McLaren revealed intentions to tour the Sex Pistols abroad in an interview with Tony Parsons for the NME. Thoughts of going to Spain, Italy and Yugoslavia all were made clear. There were also plans for the band to play in the US. Malcolm said...
"What I'd like to do is pick some place on the map that no-one has ever heard of before. Somewhere in Alabama or near the Mexican border and do a gig there. Even if they hate it, at least it's helping to decentralize and get away from playing New York and Los Angeles because everyone plays those shitholes."
De Montford Hall, Leicester
BIG IN JAPAN
Music Machine, London
Rochester Castle, London
Top Rank, Birmingham
Town Hall, Middlesboro
RIKKI & THE LAST DAYS OF EARTH
Railway Hotel, London