Wild Flag Wild Flag(Merge) Buy it from Insound
Imagine you’ve just formed a band, you’ve got a name, you know how to play, and you’ve even all been around the block a few times with a couple of records in each of your reputable lockers. Old hands, with a wealth of experience: “Great” says the journalist, “so you’re kind of a super-group, yeah?” “a ‘Super’... Group, huh?” No pressure.
This is a self-titled debut album from a debut band then, but then the assorted parts of Wild Flag are anything but debutants. Involved are the drummer Janet Weiss and singer cum guitarist Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney fame; Mary Timony of the 90s alt-rock band Helium; and Rebecca Cole from now reformed The Minders. And that wealth of experience has clearly borne fruit, in the process deftly sidestepping the pitfalls of ‘super-group’ history, if there really is any pressure in that label, it’s definitely not telling.
It’s then both entirely strange and equally unsurprising that Wild Flag feels nothing like a typical first record. It’s all so well strung together from beginning to end, beginning frantically with the charming single Romance as it admits playfully “we’ve got an eye / an eye for what's romance / we've got our eyes / our eyes straight on you!” And that is the greatest asset this record possesses, it’s almost guiltily playful, and with its flashing guitar riffs and vocals it does not let up. Boom maintains the frenetic pace, to the point that it’s almost a good joke when Brownstein decides that “It's getting so pathetic / I'm so restrained / I need it to be hectic / And rearranged, rearranged!”
The middle section cools its urgency a little, Glass Tambourine doing well to demonstrate they can slow towards a more tempered, melodic style (just about). Electric Band and Racehorse are unwitting showpieces for the two guitarists, especially Brownstein, to show off a little, but, like everything in this album, it’s never solely ostentatious or the slightest bit gaudy – just a quality product. This kind of music can be terrible, instead the record is comfort rock at its very best.
This band has created an immense energy and cohesion, and the eventual sound is not far off a ‘Gigantic’ style, Deal led, Pixies set up. It feels like they’ve been doing this for years, and while they quite literally all have, the way they have formed and moulded that sum of past experience into one new entity is nothing but impressive. And while that quirky alt-rock template is nothing new, it doesn’t matter a jot when it’s this much fun.22 September, 2011 - 09:09 — Joe Iliff