The first time I actually heard Wire's Pink Flag album was around 1993, when I ordered a compact-disc copy of it at the Groove Nation record store (which back then was about the only music shop in our country where you could get imported Modern Rock albums). Earlier, I'd read about the group in the foreign music magazines and books I'd see at the British Council, or the British Embassy in the Philippines (one of the few places where you could find such publications). I was very curious about 1970's and 1980's American and European Punk and New Wave music; the fantastic, futuristic sounds I was hearing from it (I was amassing a growing collection of tapes and CD's) was like nothing that was being played on the radio at the time. It was, as I say, 1993-- Guns 'n' Roses, Metallica, Grunge and Techno music were big-- but Punk and New Wave, from a decade or two earlier, sounded more exciting (and fresher) than the aforementioned "current" rock sounds of the Nineties.
Among these cooler 1970's and 1980's groups that I preferred-- Sex Pistols, Ramones, The Clash, Buzzcocks-- WIRE aroused the most intense curiosity. The name was scientific-sounding ("Wire" was kind of like a poetic term for the "veins of technological times," I thought), the band looked very cool and modern in the photographs (like the Dadaists of the 1920's), and the articles describe a band playing one-minute-or-less songs, with mysterious/abstract lyrics and, more importantly, super-catchy melodies. It was also saying that Wire was very influential and more innovative than the other Punk and New Wave groups of their time-- so that newer, circa-1993 groups like R.E.M. (who was big in 1993), Rollins Band (semi-big), Elastica (getting big), even Nirvana (really big!) listened to them. So, I ordered a copy of Pink Flag at the aforementioned Groove Nation record store (run by local music impresario Toti Dalmacion, who would later start his own record label and manage local Filipino bands similarly inspired by Punk and New Wave)... What I heard BLEW MY MIND! It was PUNK (or New Wave), but even MORE! The songs were very intelligent, the style very modern or "avant-garde," the delivery very intense. Lyrics needed intense analysis in order to be understood. Song titles were not the ones you'd usually see in a pop song, like "106 Beats That," "12XU," "Reuters," "Three Girl Rhumba." The beats were very fast and the song length very brief. Guitars were distorted to the point of sounding like the buzz of a machine. The band sounded wired, the music intensely electrified. It was like some Futuristic Rock 'n' Roll in a World Dominated By Technology That Was Falling Apart. And the Nineties was a time when computers and technology were really getting big; Wire anticipated that time, and more so even now (the 2000's), by almost two decades earlier. Grunge could be a back-to-Rock-primitivism reaction to this technology, and Techno could be an embrace of it, but Wire was already combining both elements as early as 1977.
I also had a band caught in between Nineties Rock and '70s & '80s Punk/New Wave. We called it The Fungus Faces. I gave tape-recorded copies of Pink Flag to my band mates so that we could learn from it and cover its songs in tribute. But my band mates couldn't understand Wire's songs; they thought it was way too advanced, arty, even weird (anagram for "wired")... They could dig The Ramones and the Sex Pistols, even some Pixies or Nirvana, but Wire, nah! In frustration I left the group (but there were other, more personal factors too).
Then I met the guys who would become my new band mates: Rico Entico, guitarist; Erick Encinares, bassist-- THE SLEEPYHEADS! The year was 1999. These Sleepyhead guys were more open-minded when it comes to music-- and also, like me, BORED with the sounds we were hearing ad nauseam on the radio (Nirvana's self-loathing punk-metal was becoming repetitive and annoying; Metallica and Guns 'n' Roses no different from the awful "hair metal" bands that everyone with a taste for more adventurous sounds hated). So, when we lent each other copies of albums we loved, including the Velvet Underground, the Modern Lovers, Stooges, Joy Division, Soft Boys, even "newer" Nineties bands like Guided By Voices and Pavement, we knew the admiration for truly intelligent Modern Rock was mutual...
But me and my (new) Sleepyhead band mates were really struck so deeply in our collective musical souls by-- WIRE! Among all the sounds we were listening to at the time, Wire's Pink Flag became one of our favorite albums, next to the Velvet Underground and Nico. Partly inspired by Wire, we wrote our original songs, played gigs, recorded, and came up with three independently-produced albums of our own-- Tuneless Moaning, Malnutrition of Love, Wreckenroll. Our minimalistic band set-up-- three-piece (stand-up) drums, guitar, bass-- was subconsciously inspired by Wire. Even the intensity and velocity of our songs was obviously "Wired." We also preferred shorter songs, as stripped down and brief as the songs on Pink Flag.
But though we pursued our own musical path, the thought of giving TRIBUTE to one of the bands who inspired us was always there-- covering the WHOLE Pink Flag album "Sleepyheads-way"! And this is what we've actually done! With the help of Ron Francisco (formerly of the pioneering Filipino Modern Rock band, The Silos) as producer and additional guitarist, we had FUN making our own version of the Pink Flag album.
Ron's Monopond Studio became almost another musical instrument; its "atmosphere" provided much of the disquieting feel of the album-- the walls were shaking as we played the ominous-sounding "Pink Flag"; the carpets were trembling as we ripped through "Strange"; the mirror of the window separating the control room and the recording booth was rattling as the bass and the guitar buzzed their way through "Lowdown"; the crispiness of the sound of human palms (with callouses!) was captured in audio verite as it claps in joyful accompaniment to the anti-Corporation rants of "Mr. Suit." Ron managed to capture it all in his simple-but-well-equipped studio, using a combination of instinctive ears, perceptive brain, and punk-electrified WIRES!
Now, looking back at 1993, it was worth it spending almost twenty years listening to and being inspired by Pink Flag. I never even thought I'd get a chance to be a part of a group who would do a "remake" of it. But with The Sleepyheads (Rico, Erick and me) and Ron on the controls, this has been done. And not to rip off Wire, but to give testimony that even in these far-away shores called The Philippines, the message of Pink Flag could be sent through the "wires" of the D.I.Y. musical spirit, and be relayed to other local peoples.
Filipinos hearing this album for the first time might think that this is an original Sleepyheads album, so we're calling it Three Boy Rhumba tongue-in-cheekly, and writing this web-site "explanation" for the uninformed-but-curious!
So, Colin Newman, Bruce Gilbert, Robert Gotobed and Graham Lewis, the members of Wire, we hope you don't mind a Filipino band covering the WHOLE of your album, just in admiration and to spread your music in our "Polk Flag" shores!
--JOHN JAYVEE Z. DEL ROSARIO (drums/vox, The Sleepyheads)
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