Release Date: Sep 13, 2011
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
If you spent the Nineties hanging out with punk-rock women – an unbeatable way to spend any decade – you get why fans rave about Wild Flag. They're an all-star team: Sleater-Kinney's guitarist Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss, plus Helium guitarist Mary Timony and the Minders' keyboardist Rebecca Cole. Yet they top anyone's wildest hopes.
Wild Flag is a lot of things, but a supergroup isn’t one of them. Carrie Brownstein, Mary Timony, Janet Weiss, and Rebecca Cole may have all been in notable indie rock groups over the past couple of decades (Sleater-Kinney for the first two, Helium and the Minders for the rest, respectively), but they’ve all been on each other’s personal radars for long enough that the transitory, just-messing-around vibe of most supergroups simply doesn’t exist. Timony and Brownstein briefly performed together as the Spells, and both Helium and the Minders played several shows with Sleater-Kinney during each of their runs.
For anyone who wore a ”rebel grrrl” button in the ’90s (and that includes plenty of guys), it’s an indie-rock dream come true: Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss, Helium’s Mary Timony, and the Minders’ Rebecca Cole, all in the same band. From the dual-guitar seesaw of ”Romance” to the punk-rock huh-uh of ”Endless Talk,” Wild Flag is rock’s first great all-female supergroup album. And it’s about time.
Is it possible to have a supergroup without any posturing? In Wild Flag's case, the answer is a resounding yes. This meeting of Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss, Helium's Mary Timony, and the Minders, Rebecca Cole came with high expectations, and on their self-titled debut, Wild Flag not only lives up to them, but challenges them, too. Women haven’t rocked out like this since the ‘90s heyday of the members’ previous bands, and nearly every track here is filled with ovaries-to-the wall guitar work as well as Weiss' formidable drumming.
At some point in your life, you may accomplish something of worth. It may be a beautiful marble statue, it may just be a well balanced cup of tea, but that accomplishment is yours. It's in the bag, it's safe. But what happens after that accomplishment? You have accomplished, so everything will be judged from there.
Carrie Brownstein – former Sleater-Kinney, current Wild Flagger – deserves a place in the pantheon of unsung guitar heroes. Her searching, needly style has been sorely missed since the end of Sleater-Kinney in 2006. Wild Flag sees Brownstein reunited with S-K drummer Janet Weiss, plus Helium's Mary Timony and keyboard player Rebecca Cole in an effervescent celebration of the fun of being in a band.
Every moment of the debut album from Wild Flag gives the impression that its makers – Mary Timony, Rebecca Cole, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss – are raiding their record collections for favourite sounds and having an absolute blast. Romance silences its robust guitars and punchy keyboards so everyone can yelp "shake shimmy shake!" over a crisp handclapped beat. Something Came Over Me has Timony unleashing her inner Bryan Ferry as she celebrates "stereo sound".
Imagine you’ve just formed a band, you’ve got a name, you know how to play, and you’ve even all been around the block a few times with a couple of records in each of your reputable lockers. Old hands, with a wealth of experience: “Great” says the journalist, “so you’re kind of a super-group, yeah?” “a ‘Super’... Group, huh?” No pressure.
On Sleater-Kinney's 2005 single "Entertain", Carrie Brownstein summed up her dissatisfaction with pop-cultural stagnation and new-wave nostalgia by asking, "Where's the black and blue?" She repeats the question three times in succession, each one increasingly maniacal, as if to illustrate her own point: Art can evolve only when it pushes forward, provokes, and leaves bruises. Alas, in the five years since Sleater-Kinney fell silent, nostalgia has become such a pervasive condition in pop culture that entire books are now devoted to analyzing the phenomenon. But Brownstein has not relented in demanding her black-and-blue, whether using her NPR Monitor Mix blog to lament the preponderance of sensitive, soft-rockin' beardos in contemporary indie, or skewering hipster fauxhemia alongside SNL's Fred Armisen on the IFC comedy show Portlandia.
Finally, a supergroup that’s actually super. For those who thought Mister Heavenly was good-not-great, Them Crooked Vultures were disappointing and Monsters of Folk were positively sleep-inducing, enter Wild Flag. Two parts Sleater-Kinney (Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss), one part Helium (Mary Timony), one part The Minders (Rebecca Cole) and many parts other various bands these ladies have been involved in during the past couple decades (Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Quasi, Autoclave, Excuse 17, etc.), the Portland/Washington D.C.
Being dubbed a supergroup isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, not when what you’re doing in the here and now can’t quite escape the overblown expectations that come with rose-tinted nostalgia. That’s a little of what all-star combo Wild Flag has been up against since it announced its existence over a year ago, though this is one, um, supergroup that has more than a fighting chance to stand on its own merits. The product of Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss joining forces with Helium’s Mary Timony, Wild Flag has a lot going for it, not only because the principals have pretty much always delivered, but also due to the fact that the band isn’t resting on any laurels, gigging regularly and working hard on original material during its short time together.
Wild Flag’s self-titled debut may not be a Sleater-Kinney album, but it feels like an extension of that band’s hard-charging aesthetic. Sans Sleater-Kinney founding member Corin Tucker, and with the addition of Helium’s Mary Timony and the Minder’s Rebecca Cole, the group retains a similar bassless, all-girl structure, and the results are uneven but generally successful, with two vocalists commanding sinewy, tuneful music. Sleater-Kinney was most strikingly defined by the push-and-pull interplay between lead vocalists Tucker and Carrie Brownstein.
WILD FLAG play Lee’s Palace October 11. See listing. Rating: NNN On the first listen to Wild Flag's self-titled debut album, it's tough to get over the fact that the band isn't Sleater-Kinney. With Janet Weiss's drums and Carrie Brownstein's guitar and voice so dominant in the mix, I wanted it to be the follow-up to The Woods, S-K's harrowing swan song.
It's quite unlikely any of the members of Wild Flag would ever openly admit to being part of a 'supergroup', but it's a word that nonetheless keeps cropping up in connection with this, the quartet's highly-anticipated eponymous debut album. Okay, so we're not talking the Traveling Wilburys here, or Blind Faith or even A Perfect Circle; none of the members of Wild Flag are what you would call household names. But two of them used to be in Sleater-Kinney, arguably the best all-female rock outfit of the past twenty years and easily one of the post-Kurt US underground's most vital bands.
Ex-Sleater-Kinney/Helium/Minders members make their supergroup debut. Camilla Pia 2011 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.
I grew up in what I affectionately call a house of prog, so supergroups sometimes get a bit tiresome. As a result, Wild Flag didn’t exactly incite bouts of excitement in me at the mere mention of the members — but from the first moments that thought was given the boot. What’s more, this indie rock supergroup isn’t Canadian (no complaints about the numerous indie rock supergroups hailing from the Great White North, though), is a “girl group” (a term that admittedly seems a bit sexist, doesn’t it?) and is really very good.
Wild Flag An alliance of hard-nosed female indie rockers who made their names in the 1990s, Wild Flag brings together Carrie Brownstein (rhythm guitar) and Janet Weiss (drums) from Sleater-Kinney, Mary Timony (lead guitar) from Helium and Rebecca Cole (keyboards) from the Minders. They clearly ….
How’s that for an attention getter? Carrie Brownstein sings that throat-clearing line on the first verse of the first song on the first album by Wild Flag, and it’s a perfect introduction to this supergroup of ‘90s indie-rock survivors: Sleater-Kinney’s Brownstein and Janet Weiss, Mary Timony of Helium, and Rebecca Cole of The Minders. They want to make sure you feel it—or at least make sure you know that they feel it. And what is “it” anyway? It is, simply and unironically, the power of music to move a body or a heart, to offer a communal experience between artists and audience members.