Wild Flag
Merge Records 2011
Wild Flag

1. Romance
2. Something Came Over Me
3. Boom
4. Glass Tambourine
5. Endless Talk
6. Short Version
7. Electric Band
8. Future Crimes
9. Racehorse
10. Black Tiles

Wild Flag debuts with greatness


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What’s to be found on a great record? What are the expectations? Some albums burrow their way into the listener’s subconscious, revealing tricks after dozens and hundreds of spins. Some roar through immediately, their genius immediately on display.

Wild Flag, on their self-titled debut record, manage to pull off both sensations. The first time through this album is a thrill, a reminder of the joy and power of pure, unabashed rock and roll. The next few times through show that the songs hold up individually, and carry some swagger to boot.

Wild Flag, let there be no doubt, is a fantastic record. On Wild Flag, two thirds of Sleater-Kinney (Carrie Brownstein and drummer extraordinaire Janet Weiss) are joined by Mary Timony on guitar and Rebecca Cole on keyboards, essentially adding a little ivory flair to Sleater-Kinney’s all-guitar-no-bass attack.

And sure enough, this plays like the sunnier companion to The Woods, with Brownstein taking center stage, and that makes for a scene to behold. With hers the primary voice, Wild Flag tears and rips through its 10 songs with an abandon that’s as much punk as it is joyous garage bashing. There’s a mix of tempos and textures here that work to keep things interesting while always propelled forward, never halting.

“Glass Tambourine,” to pick one gem semi-randomly from the set, starts with a stop-start crash before sliding into a thumping beat and building back into those chords. It’s just one example of the inventiveness on display in this band, one that consistently pulls new tricks out of an unconventional four-piece mold.

“Racehorse” is the anchor, the epic track that gives weight to everything else on the record, allowing those songs to not just swing individually, but build to the moment. It can all be a trick of sequencing and fanatical/critical height, but when the songs are this good, twisting and turning to reveal a driving monster like “Racehorse” and it’s cousin “Black Tiles,” it’s more than just smart programming. It’s the final piece of the great album puzzle. Bands spend years trying to put together that great album. Pooling their experiences into this one effort, Wild Flag nailed it on their first try.

This is a great, high energy record, one that will live in cars, turntables and iPods for years to come. It isn’t merely one of the best albums of 2011, it’s already essential.

E-mail Nick Tavares at nick@staticandfeedback.com