Wild Flag is an indie/punk rock supergroup that doesn’t really have a home base. The members are Carrie Brownstein (vocals, guitar, Mary Timony (vocals, guitar), Rebecca Cole (keyboards, vocals) and Janet Weiss (drums, vocals).
You may know Brownstein and Weiss as two-thirds of the seminal girl punk band Sleater-Kinney. You also know Carrie as being “Carrie” from the “deep cable” show Portlandia. You might also know Carrie from her early 90s band Excuse 17. As I said, you know Janet Weiss from being in Sleater-Kinney, and you may also know her from being in Quasi with her ex-husband. You know Mary Timony from being the front of Helium, and from fronting her own eponymous band. Some of you even know her from way back when she was in Autoclave, way back in 1991. Finally, you might know Rebecca Cole from The Minders.
When I first heard that this band was forming, I was extremely excited. I’m a big fan of S-K, and also of Helium. I can’t lie. I’d never heard of Rebecca Cole, who was the drummer in The Minders. I’d never heard of that band, but it turns out that they were “associated with”, but not technically “part of” the Elephant Six Collective (Neutral Milk Hotel, Music Tapes, Olivia Tremor Control…).
About eight months before they released their debut album, and in fact before they had released anything, Wild Flag went on a North American tour in February and March of 2011. They played in Chapel Hill at the Local 506, but on the same night, Sharon Van Etten was playing at King’s in Raleigh. It was a tough call to make, and it was a call that I ended up second-guessing myself about, but I chose the Wild Flag show. Even up to the night of the show, I considered eating (or selling) the Wild Flag ticket and changing my plans. It turned out that Wild Flag was a brilliant, sold-out show. Nobody in the audience knew any of the songs, but it didn’t matter. It was good times. A year later, when I finally got my chance to see Sharon Van Etten play, I told her that story and she said something like “I would have done the same thing”.
Like Sleater-Kinney, there’s no bassist in Wild Flag. In Sleater-Kinney, Carrie and Corin Tucker would both tune their guitars the unorthodox key of C#, and Carrie would play down on the “high” end of the fretboard. This gave an auditory illusion that there was a bass in the mix. Wild Flag doesn’t use that trick, but Cole handles the low stuff on the keyboards. Sometimes, like on tonight’s song, it sounds very much like a bass guitar, but it’s just bass keys.
If I’m honest, I’m not really in love with the Wild Flag album. Everybody in the band has made records that I love, (well…, Brownstein, Weiss, and Timony anyway..), but this one just doesn’t fall like that. I like the songs, and they’re fun, but I don’t “love” them.
That said, tonight’s song is one of my favorites from the album.
“Short Version” by Wild Flag
I love the start of this song. After Cole’s bass keys solo intro, the whole thing goes ballistic at 0:08. I love the crash of that first wave, and the undertow that follows. Those first ten seconds are really wild and it’s really flaggy. And if you’ve seen this band or Sleater-Kinney live, you know that they have a great time. It goes along like that for the first half of the song. At 1:45, the song breaks into what you think might be a bridge, but it turns out that there’s two parts to the song. I “like” the second part, but I wish they’d kept the first part going for the whole 3:34.
I’ve got lots of other writing (year-end list) to do, so I’m just going to leave it at that.
Please buy Wild Flag in your choice of physical (LP or CD) or digital (FLAC or MP3) format from the Merge Records web store here. Remember that there’s free shipping on all US orders!