Lets agree: culture loosely follows a 20 year circuit, and now in vogue are the 1990s. A time bereft with fads easy enough to cycle through like a flipbook, it's always satisfying when something you remember as good back then returns in full force. Example: Wild Flag. Compiling members from two of the era's most dramatically influential bands, Olympia's Sleater-Kinney and Boston's Helium, we have in our hands what would classify as a supergroup. But indie-rock bloodlines aside, this is no case study in nostalgias commercial gimmick. Wild Flag's debut is not a decisive regurgitation of riot-grrrl politics. Preaching takes a backseat to sturdy fun, indicative of what rock music should be—a celebration of the thrilling present.
Wild Flag's debut is pure, larger-than-life rock 'n' roll. It throttles, domineers, and propels itself through ten tracks, and despite the energy required for engagement, listeners crave more. Every track is vital and precise, a testament to the four incredibly skilled musicians rearing their instruments, compounding to create explosive blasts of sound. The album blisters awake with "Romance", an exercise in electricity. Carrie Brownstein's uncompromising yalp and mewling riffs jump besidfe Mary Timony's sweltering bassline and The Minders' Rebecca Cole, with her angular power-pop keyboards, devoted to moving forward. Here, the four scream out their mission statement in two parts, echoing feminist identity and obliterating isolation through music as they alternately shriek "We like what we like/We sing to free ourselves from the room."
Timony and Brownstein switch off vocally, creating a product equal parts languidly moody and destructively commanding. The most striking song on the album comes about halfway through with "Glass Tambourine." Its slower tempo and sparser beginnings allow Timony's firm control to rise above Janet Weiss' bombastic percussive breaks and surges. In the middle of the song, backed only by Cole's intuitive chords, sweet/strong harmonies evoke 60's girl groups and hypnotically chant the song title. After this break, the track slips and transforms into an upward climbing psychedelic stunner. On both "Future Crimes" and "Racehorse," literal battles emerge—on the former, between Weiss' taunting assault on her snare drum and Cole's frantic work in staccato colors, and between two monstrously grimy walls of sound on the latter.
Wild Flag, the band and the album, is a hell of good time, simultaneously melodious and in a perpetual state of disarray. If taken for what it is&mash;a fast demonstration of living, breathing punk executed nearly perfectly—one can overlook the fact that these ten songs could be a collection of singles, variable enough in their individual structures. There are no wasted moments here, no time to think, only enough to surge and go.
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MP3: "Glass Tambourine"