Jason Coleman's Reviews > Pink Flag

Pink Flag by Wilson Neate
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May 16, 15

bookshelves: musique

(Three and a half stars.) I've been dipping back into some of the old punk cornerstones lately, and as far as I'm concerned Wire's Pink Flag licks them all--Ramones, Singles Going Steady, Never Mind the Bollocks, Entertainment, even (forgive me, Joe) the Clash's first. While Wire does regroup occasionally to produce surprisingly strong new music that somehow keeps the old mystique fairly intact (I recently found that, while I was marching along the cold beaches of Duck with the family over spring break, I missed Wire playing the Black Cat in DC), it is of course their classic trio of late-70s records that remain their big attraction. Pink Flag and its 21 songs in 34 minutes was the first of a great run that continued with the arguably even better Chairs Missing, which almost singlehandedly spawned post-punk, and concluded with 154.

This little book on the debut record has a problematic first half; the backstory is told decently enough, but the discussion of the group's intentions and methods is horribly prolonged. Mind, an overview of Wire's peculiar aesthetic, which owes at least as much to Marcel Duchamp as it does to Johnny Rotten, is much-needed, and there are many good insights here, but they are buried under extreme repetitiveness. It's kind of a mess. But then, at its exact midpoint, the book shifts to a making-of account of the record, acquires a sudden focus, and becomes about as good as these things get. Small but essential reading for any fan.

Incidentally, I've read a million of these 33-1/3 books. I used to run into the Continuum people at publishing meetings all the time and, after plying them with questions, would pick up stacks of these little books for almost nothing (or sometimes just nothing) and read them on my plane rides home. If I start inflicting on you reviews of all these little books I've read and enjoyed, however--from Swordfishtrombones to Paul's Boutique to Village Green Preservation Society--we'll never get out of here. Or I won't anyway.

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Comments (showing 1-2)

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message 2: by Boyd (new)

Boyd I've never heard of this sort of book, and I have to say it sounds like a very thin slice. But I guess I can see how you'd get into it. Are there titles devoted to music other than punk? I'll take a wild guess and say ix-nay on Wagner.

Jason Coleman Right, there's no little book on Der Ring des Nibelungen.

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