Review: Wild Flag
“What is the sound of an avalanche taking out a dolphin? What do get when you cross a hamburger with a hot dog? The answer is: WILD FLAG.”
So read the first MySpace biography of Carrie Brownstein, Mary Timony, Janet Weiss and Rebecca Cole’s newest musical venture. If those names and that fantastic description still leave you bemused, let me explain that Wild Flag hail from Portland, Oregon and Washington DC and consist of alumni from Sleater-Kinney, Quasi, Autoclave, The Spells, Excuse 17, Helium and The Minders. A Venn diagram probably wouldn’t go astray here!
Several wags on the interweb have already hailed them a Riot Grrl supergroup, but we here at Gaelick like to do our own research, so out I went and got their debut album, which shares their name. Convenient!
Full disclosure: Seeing Sleater-Kinney at the Temple Bar Music Centre in 2005 was in my top ten musical experiences of all time, no question. This grrl pogo-ed about half her body weight off in sheer rockin’ bliss that night. When it was announced the following year that the band would go on indefinite hiatus, I was so blue I think I put all that weight straight back on again.
Janet Weiss continued to drum with her other band, Quasi, as well as working with Stephen Malkmus and Bright Eyes to name but a few. Then I hear that they are back together playing music again, along with some new pals! And then I hear that Gaelick want me to review the album! No pressure, Wild Flag, but I’m expecting you to be extremely awesome.
This album copes well with the five years of crazy that I bring to the party, in all fairness. Romance, the opening track, immediately puts a smile on my face. It’s straight up guitars, keyboard and drums with catchy lyrics, noodly riffs and thumping beats. I was driving my car the first time I listened, and it was somehow perfect. This song is coming soon to a road-trip playlist near you.
Apparently Carrie Brownstein came up with the melody for that one after a day of listening to Rihanna and Beyoncé. I’ll get that mentioned now before the two of them starting bragging about it.
So what else is good? The ominous intro of Electric Band is nicely counterbalanced with vocal harmonies and a bouncing chorus, shades of the Breeders on there methinks. Brownstein gets her Ramones on with Boom, the final line of “we’ve got nothing left to lose” is as much a “hey, come get me” as an F-You, a song that almost bursts with attitude.
Ten great songs, but If I had to pick just one, Racehorse is a standout track: shades of Patti Smith from Brownstein, Cole mashes the keyboard while Weiss beats her drum-kit to within an inch of its life, for almost seven minutes. I love it.
This album is upbeat without being glossy, it’s post-punk in a really good mood. If you’re not familiar with the members’ previous work, that might not be a bad thing. I get the feeling that they are getting a real kick out of this, and it’s so fresh that they almost sound like this is the first album they’ve ever made.
So if they can dump all the baggage that their respective CVs seems to bring, they maybe I can too! I decided that there’s no point in direct comparison to Sleater-Kinney, as easy as that is to do.
This album is its own woman, plenty of good tunes, strong vocals and a real sense of humour. Go get.
- Wild Flag is out now on Merge Records.