Album review: Wild Flag, “Wild Flag”


Wild Flag’s debut album is one of the most exciting rock releases of the year. (John Clark)

That’s why Wild Flag is a supergroup that doesn’t feel like one at all.

The self-titled debut by the indie band — singer-guitarist Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney, singer-guitarist Mary Timony of Helium and keyboardist Rebecca Cole of the Minders — lands next Tuesday, covered in all the sweat and grit and uncertainty that makes great rock-and-roll great. With power pop melodies, classic rock riffage and a punk heart beating furiously throughout, the foursome sprint through the album’s 10 tracks as if Wild Flag was the first band they’ve ever played in.

Which obviously isn’t the case. Timony, a Washington native who got her start in local punk band Autoclave, led the Boston band Helium through a righteous run in the ’90s before releasing two unfairly ignored solo albums in 2000 and 2002 that predicted Joanna Newsom and other freaky folk music to come. Sleater-Kinney was peaking around the same time with a brand of feminist rock that grew out of the riot-grrrl movement and into the mainstream, guitars blazing.

Instead of driving a stake in our nostalgic hearts, Wild Flag expounds on its members’ pedigrees, but with enough tenacity to make it all feel fresh. Brownstein has talked about “desperation” as one of rock’s leading virtues. On “Future Crimes,” she shows she means it. Weiss torments her snare drum while Brownstein laments, “I’m so hard-wired to be alone.” The two push even harder on “Boom,” which sounds like a Cars song wound so tight it eventually snaps and unspools.


But as great as these songs are, Wild Flag — which proved itself as a stellar live act almost instantly last spring — also embodies a sad rock paradox: The album never feels as good as hearing the band onstage.

So if you were grounded the weekend Helium came to town in 1995 or had never heard of Sleater-Kinney until you saw renaissance woman Brownstein starring in the IFC comedy series “Portlandia” earlier this year, go see them. Wild Flag is on tour all autumn (and will be at the Black Cat on Oct. 20). It’ll be better than any reunion tour dragging itself across the country. It’s your chance to live in the thrill of the right now.

Recommended Tracks: “Glass Tambourine,” “Future Crimes,” “Black Tiles”

Chris Richards has been the Post's pop music critic since 2009. He's recently written about the bliss of summer songs, the woe of festival fatigue and a guide on how to KonMari your record collection.

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