Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Wild Flag – Romance

I get the funny feeling that every time we review this band, the picture’s gonna look roughly the same…


Katherine St Asaph: A skeptic’s guide to loving Wild Flag: acquire this song, then immediately change the tags to “Unknown Artist – Romance – Unknown Album”. Wait until you’ve forgotten you’re following instructions. When you’re not reading this, you’ll shuffle upon “Romance” and there’s no way you won’t love it. See, “Romance” is Wild Flag’s pop coup, all the stronger for being marshaled by seasoned instrumentalists instead of reverb-happy knobs with bookers and bloggers’ Gchat info. Every component of this is among the most joyful of its kind: the skeleton snaps of the guitar, the drums that leap and burst to attention and that glorious point at the two-minute mark where it’s just Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony right up front in unison. It doesn’t matter what you thought of Sleater-Kinney, Helium, or any of their comparison points; if you can’t find something to love here, I don’t understand your definition.

Pete Baran: I surprised myself by liking “Future Crimes” so much, but am less surprised about liking the much poppier “Romance.” Since then it strikes me the Wild Flag project is in some ways a re-run of the Breeders / Belly style bands where the members with pop nouse from spikier bands seem to be clubbing together to make the kind of records they always wanted to make. And “Romance” gives us new-wave spikiness, with a decent melodic through-line. Supergroups were never meant to be this good.

Brad Shoup: If you’re in the game long enough, it’s even money you’ll record the music-saved-my-life song. It’s tempting to see this in terms of histories (All Hands on the Bad One-era handclaps, lead lines from The Dirt of Luck), but let’s characterize it as some alt-rock lifers holding it down. Timony strikes a fine balance between pop clarity and the mystical stuff; the song itself attempts the same thing, but the toggling between the disparate sections sheds some momentum. Now to figure out what that intro reminds me of…

Jake Cleland: I’m hearing Fiery Furnaces in the verses but the chorus is all Sleater-Kinney. In the spirit of SK walking away at the top of their game, this could do with being about a minute shorter and cutting it at the breakdown, or having the claps pushed back. It has a strong sound but it becomes really repetitious; the real climax is in the verse after “shake shimmy shake”, that’s where it should’ve dropped and the more I listen to it, the more I wish it didn’t drag on. Carrie Brownstein, if you’re reading this and you’d like a new producer…

Michaela Drapes: The burning question: Why doesn’t Wild Flag have a bassist? This song is missing all the sex and all the funk that a rollicking bottom line could bring to the table. Instead, poor Janet Weiss is left beating away in the back alone, doing the heavy lifting of two people. Mary Timony’s blazing but brief guitar bits help a little, but mostly, I just can’t get past Carrie Brownstein’s interminably snotty and whiny singsongy little girl vocals. Grow up, honey.

Alfred Soto: Mary Timony gets some slick licks in, the organ is agreeably rinky-dink, and the drums above average. Carrie Brownstein, it pains me to say, is merely average. Not only are her garbled vowels an annoyance, but I’m beginning to recoil from her decade-long fascination with songs about music: not what music sounds like when it makes you feel good, but What Music Should Say. “You’re No Rock N Roll Fun” fine, but “Combat Rock” and especially “Entertain” have the gusto of a Stalin-era apparatchik sending dissenters to work camps. Like the bloodcurdling NPR column she used to write, Brownstein enjoy prescriptive methods of education. I’d forgive even this if she could sing like the much-missed Corin Tucker.

Sally O’Rourke: Even if “Romance” lacks the directness of “Future Crimes,” it makes a better single. It’s so stuffed with hooks, it’s like a scrapbook of new wave’s greatest female-fronted hits: a Go-Go’s chorus, “One Way or Another” guitar riffing, Lene Lovich vocals, even a bit of “Mickey” cheerleading. But there’s also enough raggedness to Wild Flag that prevents “Romance” from coming too close to pastiche, and enough conviction in the performances to skirt both nostalgia and irony.

Alex Ostroff: This is a lovely mess of noise, but one that’s been perfectly calibrated and meticulously arranged. The verses have all the passion, with carefully deployed sloppiness in the guitar and keys to create dissonance on particular emotional notes – sickness, cracks, etc. – while the chorus is calculatedly disaffected. It might be retro pastiche, but it sounds damn good.

Anthony Easton: These women are genius. They are true Rock and Roll saints. I love how collective they are, and how collective they have been for a long time, how they pass around bands and responsibilities, and just love performing. So this pains me. This isn’t good. It’s respectable, it’s passable, it’s diverting, but it’s not good. Maybe high standards are confusing my ears, maybe I’m getting old or their getting old, or something, but it seems rote. Sort of like, sometimes you get together and make work that you are convinced is genius, and automatic, and sometimes you get together and make work that reflects the randomness of the process, and sometimes you get together and make work that reflects yr lived experience, but has nothing of the skill of the former or the charm of the latter–it’s sort of like that… 

2 Responses to “Wild Flag – Romance”

  1. Ack! Forgot Wednesday was the early day and didn’t get to this in time. Would’ve been an easy [8] from me.

  2. I didn’t blurb this because every attempt I made just wound up being me being angry about “Entertain” (which, fairly or not, this reminds me of) for a couple of hundred words. That’s not fair to Wild Flag, and sonically the song’s all right, but take the more negative parts of Alfred’s blurb times ten and you’ve got me.