Cover Versions

Wire Brush

Of all the bands that followed in the slipstream created by the Sex Pistols’ sonic boom, one of the most interesting is Wire.

Where the Pistols raged with a stomping glam rock fury and The Clash spat socio-political lyrics ten to the dozen, Wire were simpler. There’s no meat on their records, nothing that doesn’t need to be there. They’re packed full of lean, mean, short, sharp shocks. Rhythm and counter-rhythm live easily beside one another. Chunky, concrete block riffs drop in and out to allow vocals, backing vocals and chanted slogans the space to breath. Solos are kept to an absolute bare minimum.

There’s no need for showboating when you’re in Wire. The showboating comes from the fact you’re in Wire to begin with.

No songs outstay their welcome, either. Much of the material on debut album ‘Pink Flag‘ is over before it’s barely begun. ‘Field Day For The Sundays‘ lasts barely half a minute before it’s gone. ‘Three Girl Rhumba‘ pushes the boat out to 1 min 20 seconds. At 2 mins 37 secs, debut single ‘Mannequin‘ is a prog-bothering epic in comparison.


WireDot Dash

Had I first heard ‘Pink Flag‘ on LP rather than CD, I’d’ve been up and out my chair like Sur Alex chasing a flag-happy linesman to check there was nothing wrong with my record. And, just for the, er, record, no ma’am, there ain’t nothing wrong with the record. It’s a fantastic example of art/punk. Songs start. Then stop. New ones start again. Then stop abruptly. Tracks run into one another, all delivered in accents last heard when Gripper Stebson was terrorising Tucker Jenkins in Grange Hill. “Is this still the same song?” “I dunno!” you’ll answer yourself. By the time you’ve worked it out, the band are onto their next song.

WirePink Flag

WireLow Down

‘From A to B, again avoiding C, D and E. Cos E is where you play the bloooooze.’

There’s yer Wire manifesto right there. Two chords and the truth. Discipline. That’s what Low Down is. How many other bands could’ve resisted sticking a one note feedbacking ‘whuuuuuooooo‘ in the middle of it? Not Wire. Instead, they stick a great, echoing chord over it for a few bars. Keen ears will spot that it’s not a million miles away from that big clanging one in the breakdown of Primal Scream’s Loaded. Brutal and minimalist. Over and out.

How many other bands can claim a debut album that boasts 21 songs? By the time reissues were an accepted part and parcel of the music industry, the track listing on ‘Pink Flag‘had multiplied to an eye-watering, ear-saturating 38 tracks, including non-album singles and Peel Sessions.


Famously, Elastica stole great chunks of their most well-known tracks – I Am The Fly and Three Girl Rhumba – which I’ve written about before, here. A quick listen to Wire will make you appreciate where many other 90s and 00s bands were coming from. I’m sure the Holy Bible-era Manics were not unfamiliar with Wire’s uncompromising sound. Franz Ferdinand and The Cribs too. Graham Coxon scuffed the edges of Blur’s most abrasive tracks, not to mention much of his own solo recordings, with steroidal Wire-like riffage. Even the Lord God of Indie Guitar, Johnny Marr, has heard their angular twang and thought, “I’m borrowing some of that.” A quick listen to his more recent solo stuff will qualify that, not so much in sound but in lip curled, Fender-toting, noo wave attitoode.

The anglophile Peter Buck dug Wire so much he persuaded REM to cover Pink Flag‘s Strange on breakthrough album Document. It’s a great version too.


Contrast and compare…


Pink Flag by Wire. Everyone should have this album. It may be forty years old this year, but it’s never too late to get on board.





7 thoughts on “Wire Brush”

  1. No music collection is complete unless there is a copy of Outdoor Miner in white vinyl with picture sleeve. I actually rescued my copy of Pink Flag from my old car today..
    ”Here it is…again, and it goes like”

  2. ha! bought outdoor miner on white vinyl when it came out. still have it, even though the bicycle i rode to the record shop on is long gone. I didn’t buy the albums though for some reason – I was probably spending all my money on singles back then.

  3. ha ha, bugger off!!, I’m not the Mastermind!!….I’m just a …you know the rest..@Map,Ref Lat/Lon: 55.465850, -4.293551

  4. That is unbelievable. I just drove back from my ancestral homeland in Ayr to my home in the dark heart of South Lanarkshire this afternoon. I stopped off to pay my respects to an old friend who rests in eternal peace in the shadow of Auchinleck Church.
    I click in to see what TNVV and Plain or Pan is chintering on about this week. The map reference to Auchinleck Cemetery.

    55.465850, -4.293551

    Nobody knows me here. What the f*ck is going on? I am freaked. I actually own a copy of the Wire single in question. Map Ref. 41ºN 93ºW. But who knew I was travelling that way today and posted the map ref four days ago? I don’t know Iain Wilson.

  5. Dalveenpass I would have made you a cuppa, I live about 50 yards away from The Barony church. I’d have stuck Map Ref on as well.
    Great wee story..

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