Oddly enough, I sat down to begin writing this review while (unknowingly) wearing a Sleater-Kinney t-shirt, and I suppose that's all the context you need to understand my anticipation for this album. The Woods left me thinking Sleater-Kinney were heading in a new direction until the announcement of their indefinite hiatus. Nothing short of a true reunion will sate me, so it's best to take this review with all of that in mind.
Wild Flag, while not a full blown reunion, features two ex-members of Sleater-Kinney and thus is as close as you can get without bringing Corin Tucker in. Moreover, the self titled debut from Wild Flag sounds so similar, it might as well be a Sleater-Kinney record in disguise. It's a hell of a lot more like that band than Corin Tucker's solo record, to boot.
Indeed, even if there were no members of Sleater-Kinney in Wild Flag, they are still the most obvious point of comparison, so let's see if we can nail down the exact records Wild Flag sounds like. Well, to be fair, the addition of organ on some tracks gives Wild Flag a novel, yet not outright fresh, sound. Wild Flag really need to make more use of it if they want to distance themselves from the past. Most of these tracks could be taken straight from sessions for either The Woods ( 'Black Tiles' and, in particular, 'Racehorse', with its heavy hitting low end, fuzzy production, and six minute plus runtime) or The Hot Rock (the tense, introspective, dark, and philosophical songs like 'Something Came Over Me' and 'Electric Band' nod to it most of all). This isn't a bad thing, since those are my two favorite Sleater-Kinney albums...
...but it also leaves me wondering why I'm not listening to those albums instead, which is a bad thing. Despite the strength of these songs and the more straightforward, immediate indie rock Wild Flag employs, I can never shake the feeling that it's more appropriate to label Wild Flag a Sleater-Kinney side project than a supergroup or band in its own right. Make no mistake, if the organ solo on 'Future Crimes' were played on a guitar instead, and Corin Tucker was around to provide backing vocals, it would be a Sleater-Kinney song. I don't mean “would sound like one”, I mean literally would be a Sleater-Kinney song. Wild Flag is a side project or different band in the same way Madvillain is a side project or different band for MF DOOM, which is to say, they barely sound different despite having some different people involved.
When Wild Flag are cooking on all cylinders, such as during the jam in the middle of the aforementioned 'Racehorse', there's a weird, new-ish thrill to the band. But I said “new-ish” and not “new” for a reason. To put it another way, Wild Flag is more like a drug you use to help with withdrawal symptoms and not an outright cure for addiction to Sleater-Kinney. If there were a different overall aesthetic or even more organ dueling with the guitar, it would make all the difference. But I digress. The notion “it's almost as good as a proper new Sleater-Kinney album” is all I think you need to know about Wild Flag to determine whether or not it's for you.
4 Poorly Drawn Stars Out Of 5