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Released: November 1977

Rating: 4.727 (average of 7 ratings)

Genre: punk rock

Quotable: --

Album Tracks:

  1. Reuters
  2. Field Day for the Sundays
  3. Three Girl Rhumba
  4. Ex Lion Tamer
  5. Lowdown
  6. Start to Move
  7. Brazil
  8. It’s So Obvious
  9. Surgeon’s Girl
  10. Pink Flag
  11. The Commercial
  12. Straight Line
  13. 106 Beats That
  14. Mr. Suit
  15. Strange
  16. Fragile
  17. Mannequin
  18. Different to Me
  19. Champs
  20. Feeling Called Love
  21. 12XU

Total Running Time: 37:02

Sales (in millions):

sales in U.S. only --
sales in U.K. only - estimated --
sales in all of Europe as determined by IFPI – click here to go to their site. --
sales worldwide - estimated --


peak on U.S. Billboard album chart --
peak on U.K. album chart --

Singles/Hit Songs:

  • Mannequin (11/77) --

Notes: The 1994 CD release added the single “Dot Dash” and its B-side “Options R”; a 1989 released added only the latter.


Rated one of the top 1000 albums of all time by Dave’s Music Database. Click to learn more. Spin Magazine’s 100 Greatest Albums

Pink Flag
“Rock philosopher Brian Eno once said that although the Velvet Underground didn’t sell a lot of records in its time, everyone who bought one went out and started a band. Through the ‘80s and ‘90s and continuing today, the same could be said of the renowned English art-punks Wire.” JD

Wire “formed in 1976 during London’s vaunted ‘Summer of Hate,’ the musical uprising that followed in the wake of the Sex Pistols.” JD “The members…differed from many of their fellow punks because they were older, smarter and much more ambitious creatively. Like many of their peers, guitarist-vocalist Colin Newman, bassist Graham Lewis, guitarist Bruce Gilbert and drummer Robert Gotobed had no musical training. But like many of the psychedelic rockers of the ‘60s, they had endless ideas and a burning desire to create, fueled by that middle-class British staple, the art-school education.” JD

The band was “signed to Harvest…by the same talent scout who had signed Pink Floyd. This led the British press to dub them ‘the Punk Floyd.’ But their skeletal, brusque songs owed as much to Eno, the Velvets, Roxy Music, Can and Captain Beefheart.” JD

“Speaking with biographer Kevin S. Eden for the 1991 book, Wire ... Everybody Loves a History, the band members confessed that many of these minimalist masterpieces were intended as homages if not blatant rip-offs or spoofs…’Feeling Called Love’ was intended to be a faux Troggs song; Strange nodded to the Velvet Underground; Lowdown was a funk/blues goof, and Newman said that ‘Pink Flag’ was ‘Johnny B. Goode’ with ‘no chords in it.’ But the musicians’ technical limitations, contrary personalities and distinctive worldviews added peculiar twists to everything they touched.” JD

“While Newman’s distinctive snarl was the band’s primary voice, Lewis wrote nearly all of the lyrics, using a spare but descriptive style that owed equal debts to journalism and Beat poetry. By their nature, these telegraphic dispatches were urgent but distanced, and the fact that Newman was one step removed from the words (as the singer but not the writer) added a further layer of mystery.” JD

“For such a fiercely minimalist band, [Wire] display quite a musical range, spanning slow, haunting texture exercises, warped power pop, punk anthems, and proto-hardcore rants – it’s recognizable, yet simultaneously quite unlike anything that preceded it.” SHPink Flag plays like The Ramones Go to Art School – song after song careens past in a glorious, stripped-down rush” SH – “21 songs in under 36 minutes.” SH However, “very few of the songs followed traditional verse/chorus structures – if one or two riffs sufficed, no more were added; if a musical hook or lyric didn’t need to be repeated, Wire immediately stopped playing, accounting for the album’s brevity.” SH “It’s impossible to hear Fragile or Mannequin without being tempted to sing along by the end, though neither tune has a single note more than is necessary.” JD

“Some of the tracks may seem at first like underdeveloped sketches or fragments, but further listening demonstrates that in most cases, the music is memorable even without the repetition and structure most ears have come to expect – it simply requires a bit more concentration.” SH “All of the 21 songs are supremely well-crafted – each is a nearly perfect musical vignette.” JD

“The sometimes dissonant, minimalist arrangements allow for space and interplay between the instruments; Colin Newman isn’t always the most comprehensible singer, but he displays an acerbic wit and balances the occasional lyrical abstraction with plenty of bile in his delivery. Many punk bands aimed to strip rock & roll of its excess, but Wire took the concept a step further, cutting punk itself down to its essence.” SH

“The album opens with the haunting Reuters, a tune narrated by a desperate war correspondent.” JD “Newman sings over a plodding rhythm and a massive wall of ominous fuzz guitars.” JD “Clocking in at just under three minutes – long by Wire’s standards – the track is an ideal example of the formula that holds throughout the disc.” JD “‘Reuters’ builds to Newman’s panicked exclamation, ‘Gunfire's increasing--looting, burning, rape!’ The last word is repeated in ever more threatening tones until the song and the narrator finally collapse.” JD

“The title track revisits the concept of life during wartime; Field Day for the Sundays savages the sensationalism of the British press; Mr. Suit is a devastating take on 9-to-5 conformity while Champs and Ex Lion Tamer mock the opposite in people who are addicted to danger; 106 Beats That is a punning musing on sex, and Feeling Called Love is a sneering anti-love song that ranks among the best that punk produced.” JD

“The concluding track…12XU remains Wire’s ultimate anthem – its ‘Anarchy in the U.K.,’ ‘London Calling’ or ‘Sheena Is a Punk Rocker.’ The ‘X’ in the title is a witty bit of self-censorship (it doesn’t take much imagination to provide the missing expletive), and the song’s one minute and 55 seconds of churning fury turn punk aggression and rock sexism on their ears by adopting a gay perspective.” JD

“Pink Flag’s enduring influence pops up in hardcore, post-punk, alternative rock, and even Britpop.” SH “When R.E.M. recorded a cover for the first time on album (1987’s Document), it chose Strange; Elastica admitted that it rewrote 3 Girl Rhumba for its hit ‘Connection’; Spoon ends its shows with a rollicking version of Lowdown…The long and diverse list of other artists who have drawn from Wire include Blur, the Minutemen, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Husker Du, Ministry… – in truth, just about any daring and imaginative art-punk to emerge since 1977.” JD

Pink Flag is “perhaps the most original debut album to come out of the first wave of British punk” SH “and it still remains a fresh, invigorating listen today: a fascinating, highly inventive rethinking of punk rock and its freedom to make up your own rules.” SH It is “a sacred text, a great album and a favorite for any rock fan who has heard it.” JD

Review Source(s):

Last updated March 20, 2010.