Steve Wilson. On music.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wild Flag - s/t (Merge Records)

Well before the release of Wild Flag’s debut album on September 13th, videos of the band began to surface on Live versions of the songs from the album, certainly, but more telling was their selection of covers. I’ve seen their takes on Patti Smith’s “Ask the Angels,” the Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden” and “She's My Best Friend” from the  Velvet Underground. What these choices said was that Wild Flag wasn’t going to be limited by any parochial notions from the indie-rock world. Nor were they going to pursue any express political agenda. Instead, Wild Flag get that the most powerful statement they could make as women and musicians was to flat rock out. And that’s what they do on Wild Flag.

After all, what can a poor girl do ‘cept to sing for a rock ‘n’ roll band? By the time Sleater-Kinney came to the end of their road in 2006, singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss had already borne the burden of dreams for a generation of young rockers, especially young women. Mary Timony’s career as soloist and the force behind the group Helium was less visible, but no less connected to the preconceptions that animate the alternative-rock world, i.e. a non-star, one-of-us demeanor, aversion to “hooks” (Sleater-K had already broken that one a few times), and  indifference to commercialism and wider popularity. Keyboardist Rebecca Cole from the Minders arrived at the rehearsal studio for Wild Flag’s first practices with the least baggage, and her musicianship and spirit is critical to the success of Wild Flag. Her expressly garage-rock  keys signal Wild Flag’s connection to a rock ‘n’ roll world that spans “Nuggets” style Farfisa organ sounds, John Cale’s playing with the Velvets and the late Greg Hawkes work with the Cars. She can suggest the howling growl of “Sister Ray” or the pizzicato whimsy of the solo from the Seeds’ “Pushin’ Too Hard” – as she, by God, does expressly on “Future Crimes.”