Wire: Pink Flag (33 1/3 Series)
Wilson Neate, Continuum ($25)
In this book, Wilson Neate gets beneath the surface of a punk band with a difference. In contrast with many of their punk peers, Wire were enigmatic and cerebral, always keeping a distance from the crowd. Although Pink Flag appeared before the end of 1977, it was already a meta-commentary on the punk scene and was far more revolutionary musically than the rest of the competition. Few punk bands moved beyond pared-down rock & roll and garage rock, football-terrace sing-alongs or shambolic pub rock and, if we’re honest, only a handful of punk records hold up today as anything other than increasingly quaint period pieces. While the majority of their peers flogged one idea to death and paid only lip service to punk’s Year Zero credo, Wire took a genuinely radical approach, deconstructing song conventions, exploring new possibilities and consistently reinventing their sound. This is a chord. This is another. This is a third. Now form a band, proclaimed the caption to the famous diagram in a UK fanzine in 1976 and countless punk acts embodied that do-it-yourself spirit. Wire, however, showed more interesting ways of doing it once you’d formed that band and they found more compelling uses for those three mythical chords. 33 1/3 is a series of short books about a wide variety of albums, by artists ranging from James Brown to the Beastie Boys. Launched in September 2003, the series now contains over 50 titles and is acclaimed and loved by fans, musicians and scholars alike.