Album Reviews

Wild Flag – Wild Flag

on September 02, 2011, 8:00am
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Just one year after its existence was announced, the debut album from the much-blogged-about supergroup Wild Flag is finally here. Made up of what could be considered indie rock royalty, the four-piece includes guitarist/singer Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss, two thirds of Sleater-Kinney, reuniting for the first time since that band’s 2006 dissolution. Singer/guitarist Mary Timony, formerly of the sorely missed Helium, and keyboardist Rebecca Cole of Elephant Six group The Minders round out the lineup.

Wild Flag sets itself apart from other supergroups by showing a clear sense of purpose: This is a band formed out of a necessity to explore new, creative ideas, not just an outlet for a few bored artists to kill time between their regular outings. (I’m looking at you, Them Crooked Vultures.) More than just a novelty record, the sum of the band’s parts becomes an all-new whole. To employ a metaphor, Wild Flag would be a high-priced martini, while many other supergroups are the musical equivalent of a plastic tub of jungle juice.

Let’s clear the air and just put it out there: This isn’t Sleater-Kinney 2.0, and it’s not the Helium album some have been waiting with baited breath for over the last decade-plus. Wild Flag is something new, though not wholly unfamiliar. Brownstein and Timony’s voices will stir memories of past projects, but their new vehicle drives much harder and louder. “Short Version” is lifted into altitudes higher than any individual member has been before, led on by a blistering, high-gain guitar lead from Timony, who has dialed her amp up higher on this album than indie rockers half her age would dare to go.

Energy is the key to this record, and it sounds as if this were a much younger band with more to prove. Brownstein and Timony’s chemistry is clearest on “Racehorse”, which features the former laying down a gritty, crunchy layer of rhythm, while the latter explodes into a pedal-to-floor fuzz guitar shred. Cole even provides a delightfully psychedelic keyboard breakdown at the midpoint of the six-minute rocker. “Boom” is a well-mixed piece of garage rock that gives all four ladies a chance to cut loose. The proceedings get even wilder and more varied in “Glass Tambourine”, which takes several steep tonal shifts through its running time.

Taken as a whole, Wild Flag would undoubtedly be an excellent debut album, even without taking the players’ all-star pedigrees into consideration. As it stands, supergroups rarely have any business sounding this good.

Essential Songs: “Racehorse”, “Boom”, and “Short Version”

8 comments

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dave
September 3, 2011 at 7:13 am

this sounds AWESOME!!  i love Mary Timony, and the Slater girls obviously rule too, first ‘girl project’ i’ve been excited for in ages, ¡viva Girl Rock! :)

dave
September 3, 2011 at 7:13 am

this sounds AWESOME!!  i love Mary Timony, and the Slater girls obviously rule too, first ‘girl project’ i’ve been excited for in ages, ¡viva Girl Rock! :)

GA
September 2, 2011 at 1:56 pm

This could have been a good review if it wasn’t for the stupid cheap shot.  I’ve grown distrustful of any reviews or references that come from a viewpoint of trashing others.  I LIKED Them Crooked Vultures, and it wasn’t a bunch of celebrities sleepwalking through a project, it was a real valid collaboration of some cool ideas.  Some of it worked and some does it.  To imply that sucked, and WF is good makes me question the whole bias of the writer, and now I think this writer doesn’t listen with an open mind, so why should I read this with an open mind?  Unfortunately, as interested as I was in Wild Flag, I kind of don’t want to check it out now because of this review.  And that is sucks.  Maybe once the stink from this write up wears off in a week or so, I can get a clear perspective and maybe just try out a few tracks.

Millert18
September 2, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Yeah dude, when someone dislikes something you like, and then goes on to explain how something they like is better than that something that you like, you should totally regard their opinion of the thing that they like–which you have no direct exposure to–as an invalid opinion.

That is sucks for big times.

veektor
September 3, 2011 at 3:13 am

You is sucks for big times.  The dude’s got a point; the author loses some degree of credibility by bashing a band that, mind you, was fairly well-received. 

shaz
September 5, 2011 at 8:10 am

Haven’t heard ‘Vultures’ but I don’t see why the author would be credible only if he praises a certain band. He is as much entitled to his opinion as you are.

Stefan
September 5, 2011 at 4:02 pm

The “author” (ha ha ha) simply has some splainin’ to do is all. Like many reviews here, it seems baseless claims or overt biases count as good reviewing. Again, the dude has his right to his opinion, (I’m not a communist or a fascist let’s just be very clear the air on that one, the dude definitely has his right to his opinion! These are important facts to get tangled up in and very good argument points. Thank you so very much for bring us all back down to planet earth. America specifically. Where we all have a right to our opinions. We almost got lost there for a second. Nice to be back! Let us also not forget to let other’s, whose opinions are contrary to ours, know that they are “Hating”. Solid counterpoint, for sure. Please take the time to respond with, “Don’t read it if you don’t like it”. That is just a very good and useful way to spend your time. Plus you sound smart, “Yeah? Don’t read it if you don’t like it because it’s all just a big steamin’ heap of garbage”. Good solid point) but what’s his opinion really? He’s just thrown teatherless insults around to try and explain why this Wild Flag album, which he deems to be a better group than Them Crooked Vultures (because why doesn’t matter. Don’t stop my opinions commie!), is a good album. He might not like TCV because they aren’t Led Zeppy enough (We will never know). This is probably not a musically intelligent reason for hating (stop hating! Move on loser!) that album, in which case why should he have a musically intelligible reason for liking this album. The whole thing reads like it should be in the comment section. Just sayin arbitrary shit basically. That’s what I do, get off my gig dude, stop taking my job, quit being un-American. Why are you hating? Don’t read this if you don’t like it! I rest on your face!!!!!!

Stefan
September 4, 2011 at 4:38 am

That’s because they get people who’ve never been to China, but love to eat Vietnamese food in Chicago, to write their books on China. Wait until a new Them Crokked Vultures album comes out and some different person talks about how shitty of a supergroup Wild Flag is in comparison to them. The circle of unfounded bullshit shall be made once more from the knowlegeble folks at CoS.

Fuck’s sake, at least explain to some degree of what you are talking about with the Them Crooked Vultures comment????? Personally, I didn’t like the album but I would probably feel the need to elaborate on just what the fuck I am talking about in what establishes a “novelty” and how you all can be sure that I know I’m not just to big ol’ Wild Flag fanboy who perhaps themselves can not see the Novely Forrest for the Novely Trees.

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