Ex-Sleater-Kinney/Helium/Minders members make their supergroup debut.
Camilla Pia 2011-10-04
When Sleater-Kinney split five years ago, right-minded music fans mourned. In 12 years, the Olympia trio released seven stunning records and single-handedly taught misogynist critics that girls could play guitar – duh. The band’s Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss (the latter also of Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks and Quasi) have now re-united, much to Kinney fans’ glee, for Wild Flag, a new musical project with Helium’s Mary Timony and The Minders’ Rebecca Cole – leading many to dub this something of an indie rock supergroup.
And the newly formed Portland, Oregon and Washington, DC-based foursome sound like they were born to play together. They imbue this gloriously raucous debut with infectious energy, astonishingly intricate musicianship and savvy melodic know-how throughout. Romance is a stunning starting point, as pummelled drums, handclaps, keys, gorgeous harmonies and gritty riffs tumble over each other, eventually bursting into a huge chorus. And buoyant pop moments like these – later we hear similar dynamics in the equally catchy Endless Talk, Black Tiles and Future Crimes – are beautifully counter-balanced by slightly more subdued offerings, such as Something Came Over Me and Glass Tambourine.
It’s when the outfit really attack their instruments, however, that sparks start to fly from the Wild Flag sound. Boom is one such example, a dizzying display of skew-whiff riffs, screeches and thrashy sticks-work from Weiss. Racehorse is more experimental and rhythmic, as guttural guitars growl and wail, slow to a halt and then build to a spine-tingling finale; and Short Version sits neatly between them, providing more in the way of helter-skelter sonics, the playing so raw and frenzied you can imagine Brownstein windmilling her solos like the extra guitarist The Who never had.
Wild Flag’s craft – honed and perfected during a spate of well received club shows – and the magic of this long-time-coming collaboration (the band’s members have known each other for well over a decade) is here for all to hear. All of these tracks were captured live, except for the vocals, and the unabashed joy Timony, Brownstein, Weiss and Cole clearly experienced when finally playing together really comes across in the recordings. They practically sizzle when played.