Pink Flag

Song Review by

”Pink Flag” Newman/$Gilbert/$Lewis/$Gotobed (1977)

The title track to Wire’s highly original debut is the longest track on the album, clocking in at a whopping three minutes and fifty seconds. Here it seems the band are again restlessly fiddling with arrangements and musical approaches in search of fresh territories to conquer. The idea seems to be an attempt to combine Wire’s two great strengths, their knack for fashioning ominous, end of civilization scenarios with a need to produce nerve snapping punk rock. Opening with a mournful series of long floor tom drum rolls and big held chords the track soon launches into a low grinding groove, dirty guitars strung along a straight mid-tempo jam, stomping on a single chord while bassist Graham Lewis adds minor melodic runs to the deliberate steamroller pace. Singer, Colin Newman adds another layer of malevolence with a bleak monotone rant carrying marshal overtones, “I was sold up the river to the red slave trade / The stores were gathered, the plans were laid / Synchronize watches at 18.05 / How many dead or alive, in 1955”. Things seem no better by the second verse, the time for diplomacy well past, the desperate hour at hand, “The pink flag was screaming / Bugle boys sucked and blew / No time for confessions / Orders given, the books were cooked, on the 4th or 3rd / How many seen or heard, on the 12th of the 3rd” Newman harps on the mournful question, “How many dead or alive?” before the tempo explodes into a thrashing frenzy amongst agonized shouts. The track disintegrates in a clamorous heap, then ending as it began, with long tom rolls punctuated by sustained chords and howls. –Tom Maginnis

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Pink Flag 1977 Pink Flag 3:45
Behind the Curtain 1995 EMI Music Distribution
Pink Flag/Chairs Missing/154 2000 EMI Music Distribution 3:47