Album review – Wild Flag
-by Andrew Livingstone
The formation of supergroups with members from established, legendary-in-their-own-right bands is both exciting and worrisome. Exciting because the melting pot of sounds and musical philosophy can produce fantastic music; worrisome because the final product can sound disconnected, sloppy and self-indulgent.
Wild Flag is the former. Made up of two parts Sleater Kinney (Carrie Brownstein on guitar/vocals, Janet Weiss on drums) and one part Helium (Mary Timony on guitar and vocals), Wild Flag brings together members of two important, female-fronted bands for a debut that is a grunge-y throwback to the early ’90s.
The album is straight rock – top heavy with guitar solos, simple, yet strong riffs, as on “Black Tiles”, on which Brownstein and Timony showcase the kind of chemistry not found in a science lab. “Short Version” is loaded with punchy guitar and harmonized vocals, and is a real slap in the face musically, while “Glass Tambourine” is like a mutated doo-wop song: vocally stunning, harmony-filled and met with an explosive climax of Brownstein and Timony dueling it out on their guitars.
The group rips through the rockers “Boom” and “Racehorse” with head-banging fury before leaving the aftermath behind for “Romance” – a twisted, psychotic love song loaded with rhythmic clapping and, again, solid vocal harmony.
The album’s most appealing trait is its simplicity. It’s all about solid, catchy guitar riffs, sexy harmonies, and chest-pounding beats with a smattering of well-placed organ and keyboard, courtesy of Wild Flag’s fourth member Rebecca Cole.
Wild Flag’s influence from their musical past can be heard on the album, Sleater Kinney and Helium are stamped on the sound. But, while each influenced the record, the foursome still manages to twist and jerk each song into something fresh.
Watch – “Romance” live on KEXP (video):