As a key player in the emergent all-girl segment of the American indie-rock scene in the late ’90s, Sleater-Kinney confronted convention and the misogynistic views of the press and the public, making tough, hard rock ‘n’ roll in an arena usually dominated by men, and continued to do so for 12 years. As such, when they split in 2006, plenty of fans mourned their demise.
Considering how much they’ve been missed, in many ways it’s fitting that the void left behind by Sleater-Kinney’s breakup should be amply filled by Wild Flag, something of an indie-rock supergroup featuring two members of Sleater-Kinney. Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss are joined by Helium‘s Mary Timony and The Minders‘ Rebecca Cole on their debut, self-titled album.
Opening track Romance demonstrates amply that the quartet are tackling their new endeavour with a sense of gusto and occasion, as it purposefully rumbles along before exploding into an anthemic chorus. It feels like the musical equivalent of the band kicking down your door and beating you up. It’s all fantastically – and there’s no other word for it – badass. The tumbling, percussive Something Came Over Me, on the other hand, shows off the girls’ more melodic side, and armed with another killer chorus inviting the listener to “let the good times toll,” it will have most listeners smitten by its conclusion a little over four minutes later.
The raucous helter-skelter of Boom sees organ and guitar lines battle for supremacy before the guitars win by quite some margin. With pounding drums, pounding guitars and yelped vocals this is one of the album’s most driven and determined all-out thrashes. Contrast that with the subdued, bluesy Glass Tambourine, seemingly transmogrified through space and time from the late ’60s, yet done so with bucket loads of conviction.
The album delivers throughout, be it the instant pop hooks of Endless Talk, the incendiary Short Version or the hazy, lazy pop of Electric Band. What impresses most all the way through to the album’s end is that despite being recorded live there’s a genuine song craft in evidence, and the interplay between the instruments shows considerable thought and is a joy to behold.
What we have here is an album leaner than a quality steak and with enough sass and bravado to make the likes of Joan Jett and Kate Jackson look like submissive wallflower housewife types. Some may describe this album as too raucous and little more than a racket, but it’s a glorious racket.