Under Review: Wild Flag – Wild Flag
There are textbook supergroups (and believe me, there are plenty of them), and then there are groups that are downright super. Having each played in so many overlapping bands that a meticulous flow chart/Venn diagram demonstration might be in order, the quartet known as Wild Flag comes with several decades’ worth of experience. Co-led by guitarists Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and Mary Timony of Helium, Wild Flag is rounded out by ex-Minders keyboardist Rebecca Cole and Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss, who has also played with Bright Eyes and Quasi, to name a scant few. Together, the ladies of Wild Flag unleash a gritty, catchy and technically virtuosic batch of tunes on their self-titled debut. As the members’ collective résumé delayed the group’s launch (you try coordinating a tour a full six months before your album comes out), the release is nothing short of bombastic. Bursting open with the searing “Romance,” Wild Flag grabs hold early and never lets go. The track features a classic verse-chorus-verse structure; a refreshing throwback in an era when suite-like arrangements are considered the new norm. Wild Flag could be considered revivalists in that the music they make shirks modern trends in favor of out and out sharp songwriting.
For those who are fans of any of Wild Flag’s members’ other bands, the album will come across as a blast of guitar-pop fun. A pair of extended, exploratory pieces, “Glass Tambourine” and “Racehorse,” pit Brownstein’s and Timony’s fretwork against each other, while punchier numbers like “Electric Band” and “Boom” hearken back to Sleater-Kinney’s pioneering days. “Glass Tambourine” along with “Future Crimes,” both previously released on a Britt Daniel-produced single, have been rerecorded here and the new versions are much more fitting to Wild Flag’s ethos. Where Daniel gave the songs a taut, nervous tension, Chris Woodhouse’s all-live mix (vocals excepted) accentuates the raw energy of Wild Flag. Though it might be a little tough to accept Wild Flag as a proper venture given each member’s band-jumping tendencies, let Wild Flag stand as a record of what can happen when superbly talented friends unite to create exceptional music. This isn’t the sound of four people trying to redefine a genre (they each kind of did that back in the late ‘90s, anyway), but four people pushing each other to their limits with terrific results.