This may go down as my most hated post of all-time. Wild Flag has been almost unanimously praised by critics and fans as the greatest all-female supergroup in the history of rock. Well, I suppose I agree with that to a point. If you only count supergroups, then yeah. If you count regular bands that aren’t made up of pieces from bands that were popular in the late 90’s and early 00’s, I’d say they’re pretty middle of the pack.
Listening to Wild Flag reminded me why I never became a huge fan of Sleater-Kinney (and The Minders and Helium for that matter). I dig the attitude on display, and the musicianship can’t really be questioned because it almost all sounds good, but there’s something missing for me. I think it’s just that I don’t find the songs appealing.
A lot of that has to do with the question burning in my brain after repeated listening…can Carrie Brownstein or Mary Timony sing? In my opinion, no. Not really. Most of the vocals sound like Linda Perry got drunk and found some tapes to sing over while she sobered up. “Glass Tambourine” is a pretty fine example of this, I think. Also “Electric Band.”
Vocals alone don’t make or break a record, but they certainly don’t help here. The best thing about the record is Janet Weiss on drums. She kills it start to finish. Brownstein gets some good riffs in, and doesn’t do too much to elevate the guitar sound above muddy (which I actually like). Rebecca Cole on keyboards gets a little lost in the mix. Honestly I don’t remember anything that she contributed.
Maybe if I had a more rich history with the original bands these women were in, I’d find Wild Flag more interesting. As it stands, I just think, “Really?” Of course, while most cool kids were rockin’ to Kinney, I wasn’t listening to anything like it. In fact, the only all-female groups that I really listened to with any regularity were The Donnas and Sahara Hotnights. Neither of which lasted the test of time.
So for me it’s a thumb sideways. I neither love nor hate Wild Flag, and I don’t really have any feeling but indifference. Instrumentally it’s a pretty strong record, but the vocals offset my positive feelings on the album. If you were a huge fan of any of the original groups, you might like this. If you didn’t like them, this won’t change your mind.