Wild Flag - Wild Flag - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Wild Flag - Wild Flag

by Al Brown Rating:5 Release Date:2011-10-10

Wild Flag are a new band made up of the constituent parts of various other American alt-rock bands (can I use that term anymore? Sounds a bit 90s, but then, well, more on that later.) Most noticeable among them are the unique vocal talents of Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein, but fellow Kinney alumnus Janet Weiss drums and Mary Timony (ex-Autoclave, Helium) plays guitar.

Wild Flag share some of Sleater-Kinney's traits, but they are mellower: Brownstein doesn't get a chance to unleash many trademark howls. Occasionally, it's like she's trying on a few new voices: 'Boom' sees her tastefully affect some of Patti Smith's tics and wobbles, and 'Racehorse' has some of the general galloping ebb and flow of Smith's 'Horses'.

The sequencing is thoughtful throughout with upbeat, shoutier numbers alternating with mellow ones, but apart from that there's not a huge amount of variation, and still fewer surprises. The production is cleaner than you'd expect: too clean, truth be told. The straight-ahead rock of 'Short Version' and 'Electric Band' don't necessarily suffer for it, but more abrasive fare ('Boom', 'Future Crimes') lacks bite. 'Electric Band', though, is full to the brim with euphoric, crunchy goodness and 'Glass Tambourine' is a floaty California acid-trip.

We've got to come to the elephant in the room at some point though, so here goes: the album is completely, undeniably retrograde. Musically it's like a trip back to 1998. And there's something about the lyrics too; when Brownstein sings "Uh-oh uh-oh/ but you're coming through the stereo", it's like when Stephen Malkmus sang a similar thing on 'Stereo' or when Damon Albarn was "Feeling heavy metal": you want to believe it means something (and if you were still 15, by God, you could) but you know it's probably just facile, feel-good bullshit. And it is that feeling, combined with the predictability of every riff, every second lyric, that makes this record something you could comfortably recommend to any 90s nostalgia-fiends in your life - but also what stops you, my discerning Soundblab reader, from ever really buying into it.

Overall Rating (0)

0 out of 5 stars

Comments (14)

  • Great review. There're also a few Suede songs where Brett Anderson warbles "stereo" like it's some kind of super-evocative word. Which it isn't. It just sounds weirdly dated, like someone working 'download' into a song now.

  • Yeah I think Brett Anderson may be a bit of the reason why I ground my teeth at that lyric actually. Thinking about him singing stereo is like thinking about Liam Gallagher singing "shine"... horrible.

  • This is true. Mind you, Anderson also prohibited the use of 'trash', 'gasoline', 'pigs', 'swine', 'dogs' and a number of other words just through repeated deployment of them in lyrics that made absolutely no sense sung in a silly wannabe Bowie whine.

  • God Trash is just the worst song, I do fucking hate his voice so much though. But it's just the fact it's called Trash, and obviously there's already a great song called Trash and WHAT THE FUCK WAS HE THINKING??? God britpop makes me so angry sometimes. Literally everything about it is so offensive.

  • PS I'm pretty sure I've made a few factual errors in this review: like I think there's two lead singers, but they do sound quite similar, so maybe it's not that important?

  • Al, I love your reviews but 'Literally everything about Britpop is so offensive' is the funniest thing I've read in a while. Are we including Pulp in that bracket?

    I don't know how old you two whippersnappers are but Suede were great (up to a point). Shite lyrics I'll agree with though.

    Britpop was actually OK for a number of reasons but mainly because it was a nice change from grunge, which had gone stale. Unfortunately there was a lot of awful bands like Echobelly and Sleeper and people started dressing badly.

    Maybe you have to be of a certain age, I lived through it in my early to mid twenties and while I hated more bands than I liked (Shed Seven, Bluetones, there were loads of them) that period/scene produced loads of great albums.

    Strange how we're discussing Britpop on this review! I've listened to this album as well and I agree with 5/10, it just doesn't really get going, listen to Sleater Kinney's The Woods instead.

  • I actually like Trash. I think Anderson just thought "Oooh, there's a song called Trash, which is a successful song by a glam rock band, which I am aware of through my incredibly limited musical knowledge. I will also write a song called Trash and everyone will think that's really cool and love me again."

  • Suede's early singles and b-sides aree great I think and few tracks on their debut album as well but they went bad very quickly. I went back and tried to listen to Dog Man Star recently and, New Generation and maybe The 2 of Us aside, it's just utter, utter shite. And the lyrics are just cringeworthy: "We are the pigs/ We are the swine/ We are the stars of the firing line". I mean, seriously, what?! No one can convince me that was ever good.

  • Bob: I was in my early-mid teens when Britpop was around and, Pulp-aside, I can't think of anything I'd willingly go back and listen to (Supergrass' debut was good actually). I think I feel a bit betrayed by that whole period cos, to me at least, there was a real cynical, coke-fuelled money grabbing aspect to all of it. To my ears now, so much of it seems incredibly trite and lazy, both musically and lyrically: there seemed to be a total lack of subtlety and passion, both in songwriting and production. It was basically aimed at kids like me, who didn't know any better and would basically buy any old shit as long as you could sing along to the chorus. Basically every band was the Kaiser Chiefs. I am occasionally forced to listen to Britpop these days (alot of the twee-pop kids seem to dig it) and nothing I've heard (or re-heard) has changed my mind.

    I know I'm painting in incredibly broad strokes here, but I honestly think Britpop is the only genre/period where you can do that, cos it was 99% garbage! (I didn't like grunge much either, I guess I just hate alot of things)

  • Rich: yeah I thought you liked Suede. I've never really listened to the early stuff even though alot of people say its good. It's mainly his voice I can't stand.

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