Wild Flag - Wild Flag
Release Date: September 13, 2011
Record Label: Merge
So, 2011 is the new 1996. That's fine by me. First we had Radical Dads crunchy alt-rock inspired Recklessness and now from the OGs of the post punk scene, Carrie Brownstein, Rebecca Cole, Mary Timony, & Janet Weiss, Wild Flag's self-titled release. While Brownstein and Weiss (formerly of Sleater-Kinney) are the above-title members of the group, it'd be a mistake to try to pit Wild Flag against their former group. Wild Flag is an animal of their own.
What's immediately palpable off the album is a kind of emotional urgency that we haven't heard in a while. With song-based punk diluted into more and more corporate shilling, the necessity of the music and it's undeniable energy has receded from view as well. Perhaps it's not so surprising, then, to look to a time when music was still going through the Hamlet-esque "to sell out or not sell out" routine if for nothing else other than finding a place to start again.
It's fun to hear distorted-guitar based rock again. So retro, perhaps, it's cool again to cut the thrills out and just be a band. Wild Flag seems unintimidated (because they've been here before) and brutally raw. Opener "Romance"plays to the band's strengths -- a junky keyboard riff and Weiss's bombastic percussion are circled and re-circled with Brownstein and Timony's guitars. This album works the best when it seems to be spiraling out of control and when the melody moves in to make the noise make sense as it does with "Boom." It's no doubt a tribute to Weiss who gives the meter, the measure, the time to the glorious chaos.
After a couple listens, what becomes immediately obvious is that these are women who are in control of their instruments. The cohesion and chemistry of the group is palpable so that no song seems like a show for one of them or the other, everything works in time and juxtaposition with the keyboards, guitars, and percussion punctuating and holding melody alternatively through tracks. Like on "Short Version" where a psych riff carries us out of noise into a glisteningly poppy Ramones-type chorus. It's one of the many moments on the record that feels like a revisiting of a quotation -- drawing from the past and pushing it into the future.
But, perhaps the most engrossing part of the album is the track's choruses which infectiously etch their way into your consciousness. "Something Came Over Me," a contender for track of the year in my book, is a love song to music (or about music and love, how often they go hand in hand) and reaffirms what we've all been missing -- something to make us long, to make us turn on the radio, to make us hear again. Wild Flag does it on this album, gives us a reason to keep listening.