Monday, August 29, 2011

Wild Flag: "Wild Flag" (album review)

When it comes to musical pedigrees, you'd be hard pressed to find a new act that has a better one than Wild Flag.  The band is comprised of former Sleater-Kinney players Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss, alongside Helium's Mary Timony, and Rebacca Cole of The Minders.  The quartet release their self-titled debut album on September 13th.

It would be easy to sit here and try to pick out every little instance where Wild Flag sounds vaguely like Sleater-Kinney.  It would be equally tempting to point out the slightest differences between the two bands.  The truth, as is usually the case, lays somewhere in the middle.

The Sleater-Kinney stutter step cadence is the cornerstone of many of these new songs.  That's particularly true when Brownstein's delivers her typical choppy vocal rhythm.  A track like "Something Came Over Me" serves as a strong example of that.

It's really what Wild Flag lay on top of that initial Sleater-Kinney building block that makes these songs so compelling.  On the album opener, "Romance", the adornment is a catchy, almost surf-inspired verve.  At the other end of the spectrum,"Boom" is a fuller, more all-encompassing sound than Sleater-Kinney ever really achieved.  Both "Short Version" and "Electric Band" inject a healthy dose of melody to fill the gaps within the ample power.

All of that gets flipped on its head with "Endless Talk".  That track places the punk rock guitar and drum attack at the forefront, leaving a breezy summer backdrop beneath to suck in the listener.

Timony's influence manifests itself strongest on "Glass Tambourine".  That track has an overwhelming Helium flavour with it's unique structure and chamber pop inspiration.  The album closer, "Black Tiles", is a kicking rocker that also features that cresting and crashing.

Wild Flag has managed to accomplish a difficult task.  They have come together with a long line of fans who have expectations based on previous work.  With this record they have keep their songs familiar sounding enough to placate those fans, while infusing just enough new elements to refrain from sounding derivative and tired.  It was a hard balance to strike, but Wild Flag have done it very well.

Wild Flag plays Lee's Palace in Toronto on October 11th.

Best tracks: "Endless Talk", "Boom"

Track listing for Wild Flag:
  • Romance
  • Something Came Over Me
  • Boom
  • Glass Tambourine
  • Endless Talk
  • Short Version
  • Electric Band
  • Future Crimes
  • Racehorse
  • Black Tiles
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1 comment:

exlibriscat said...

Mary Timony sings Something Came over Me, not Brownstein.