ALBUM (1977)

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 November, 2009, 12:00am

Pink Flag
(Restless Records)

January 14, 1978, marked the day that punk gave way to arguably the most prolific, varied and exciting of all eras in modern music. The final chaotic Sex Pistols gig in San Francisco closed the door on the defining genre of the 70s and opened another to the post-punk movement, which was to spawn some of rock's best music.

London-based Wire were at the forefront of this new scene after releasing their debut, Pink Flag, a month earlier, establishing post-punk's rebel-with-a-cause template.

Where punk went all out to destroy in its nihilistic mission to eviscerate the bloated corpse that rock had become in the 70s, post-punk harnessed its predecessor's anarchic energy and attitude to promote a utopian vision for the future. Wire's left-leaning political stance typified much of the movement's aims, themes and sound. As their name implied, Wire's music was taut and spare, stripped of the flourishes of even punk, which itself sought to unravel the pompous excesses of the day's mainstream bands.

Like the Jam's debut In the City of the same year, Pink Flag debunked punk's smash-it-up aesthetic for a manifesto that sought to build a new, socially reorganised future - a common theme of post-punkers from Bristol's Pop Group through to Akron, Ohio's Devo. Opener Reuters is a rallying call for the burgeoning movement: a news-wire service report warns of imminent change as the decay of the past prompts 'gunfire ... looting, burning, rape' from discontents about to take society's reins. There follows a litany of attacks on the pillars of modern culture, among them: the media, in the caustic Field Day for the Sundays; TV culture in Ex Lion Tamer; work ethics in Lowdown.

At times, post-punk took on a Nietzschean tone in its view of humanity as somehow weak, part of the process of forging a technologically pure future where emotion is a form of weakness; an ideology that opened many of Wire's contemporaries, Joy Division and Throbbing Gristle among them, to accusations of neo-fascism.

Wire were not immune, either: What is This Feeling Called Love examines amorous paralysis as a failing while Three Girl Rhumba reduces sex to a staccato, loveless and digital process. It's no surprise the genre-defining album went on to influence generations to follow. Rhumba's stutter-punk riff was lifted almost in its entirety for Connection by proto-Britpoppers Elastica (who also assimilated a large measure of I Am the Fly from Wire's second album, Chairs Missing, into their hit Line Up). REM owe a great debt to Pink Flag, too. They not only covered Strange, but also cranked out the riff from What is This ... on What's the Frequency, Kenneth?