Wire: Pink Flag (1977)
But it's Pink Flag that stuns with its efficiency. A good proportion of the album's original 21 tracks check in at under two minutes, introducing the riff, some cryptic lyrics by Colin Newman, and then moving on to the next track. A few of these measured bursts stand out: The frenetic 30 seconds of "Field Day For The Sundays"; the herky-jerky riff of "Three Girl Rhumba" (later nicked and repurposed by Elastica); the punk energy and catchy closing chorus of "Straight Line"; the infectious simplicity of "Champs." But the album is also surprisingly varied within the narrow confines of its simple, to the point framework: "Fragile" and "Mannequin" are miniature pure pop masterpieces (both treated to fun cover versions over the years); "Ex Lion Tamer" is just basic, in your face rock & roll; "Strange" is a haunting, slow dirge loosely based on the Velvets' "Sister Ray" (later improbably turned into a fluffy pop tune by R.E.M.); and closing track "1 2 X U" is a punk anthem worthy of inclusion alongside "Anarchy in the UK" and "White Riot" and "Orgasm Addict" as revolutionary touchstones of the genre.
As distinctive as the songs is the production; while spartan and loud on first blush, it has a crisp immediacy (just listen to the immaculate high hat sound) that manages to sound as raw and tossed-off as the first Ramones album yet carefully recorded to sound like they're playing in your living room.
It's not an album I pass along to many friends, as despite the catchy hooks scattered throughout it is deliberately different and odd and no-frills; but for indie rock fans digging into the roots of punk and post-punk, it is one of a handful of truly indispensable records.
Here's a nifty video for "1 2 X U":