So I randomly heard about Wild Flag and their debut LP after discovering that Sleater-Kinney broke up. I really don't know much about Sleater-Kinney, but I decided to see what one of their successor bands sounded like (the other is The Corin Tucker Band, founded by ex-S-K guitarist Corin Tucker [duh]).
Sleater-Kinney's lineup is ex-S-K guitarist Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss; ex-Helium guitarist Mary Timony; and ex-Minders drummer Rebecca Cole, now on keyboards for Wild Flag. These girls have built an impressive sound for themselves; and I feel that, with a few minor headscratcher sounds, it's as close to a perfect disc as you can get from a modern band. This is destined to be, if not an outright classic, one of those lost gems that everyone just needs to hear.
What I Liked:
Every song has their unquenchable energy, even when the pace is slower than average. A great knack for rock riffs and meoldies is inescapable. Their lyrics are very good for a punk band, even with a slight feminine undertone (keep in mind here that Sleater-Kinney was one of the later bands in the riot grrrl movement). Carrie's voice is well-suited for their styleas well. I really like her delivery almost all of the time (we'll talk about this later). Mary and Carrie's guitar work (I'm not sure who does which part but I would guess that Carrie handles lead while Mary takes rhythm full-time) are very good, and more complex than expected for a rock band rooted heavily in punk. I'm enjoying Rebecca's subtle approach to the keyboards, but think that eventually she should occupy a more prominent place in the mix. Janet is a solid drummer, nothing flashy, and no solos; but holds the band together. Best songs would have to be 'Romance', an upbeat rocker to open the album; 'Black Tiles', a restrained punk smash to close it out with a catchy discordant riff; the nigh-psychedelic 'Glass Tambourine'; the drawn-out anthem 'Racehorse'; and 'Electric Band', a very classic-sound pop/rocker. The other tracks are almost as good, though; every track on the disc feels like it belongs without every song seeming indistinguishable.
What I Didn't Like:
Not very much. The only track that gave me problems was 'Boom', a fast-paced if gloomy punk selection, and the only real thing that bothered me was Carrie's vocal. She occasionally delves into what I call the 'pathetic vocal', and I'm a bit bothered by her seemingly overplaying it. Also discussed before was Rebecca's relative lack of presence on the disc; but relatively, it's not that serious. It's more of a nitpick.
Great album, with a few flaws. One of the albums I would recommend to anyone who enjoys rock and punk, and pretty much anyone who likes good music. Why aren't the hipsters all atwitter about this band? Possibly their age. Believe it or not, Carrie Brownstein is the youngest member, turning 39 this coming September, and Janet Weiss is all of 47! I must say in all honesty that when I first listened to the disc that I thought I was listening to a much younger group than they really are. I say good for them! Rock on, ladies! These kids nowadays have nothing on you!
On a very different note (ha), the Yeah yeah yeahs have finally released their fourth album, Mosquito. A year late on their three-year album cycle, the disc has nonetheless been almost entirely worth the wait. Maintaining the same lineup for 11 years (Karen O on vocals, Nick Zinner on guitar, and Brian Chase drumming), Yeah Yeah Yeahs have gained a reputation for a sexually charged, arty, punky style and have generally lived up to it. Releasing Mosquito in 2013, I feel, has maintained that arty, sometimes trashy, feel that their best music posesses. Even with some hangups, their latest is a good vehicle for keeping the band current and relevant a decade after their first release.
What I Liked:
The best things about The Yeah Yeah Yeahs has always been their raw, sometimes trashy sound, and while this record is more polished production-wise than their first two releases, the delivery recalls their early work very well. Karen is in excellent form, occasionally channeling her sexually raw delivery of those days, but often with a Debbie Harry-style gloss/grace. This is not a problem for me at all. Nick plays his guitars and tickles some e-ivorys with his typical skill, and Brian is a solid drummer, delivering his typical quality performance. The melodies and riffs are good here, and even a few hooks show up (see 'Subway', in particular). The record has a darkness to it; not the making-out-in-the-worst-lit-corner-of-the-dive-bar darkness of Fever To Tell, but a more sinister darkness, like a zombie movie darkness, done well. The last quarter opf the record is much lighter and brighter; like a happy ending. And this brings up my main strange feeling about the disc: I could have sworn that this was a concept album. Everything feels extremely cohesive; to the point where I want there to be some storyline that weaves every part of the album together. Best songs are the excellent 'Sacrilege', 'Subway', and 'Mosquito', the latter channeling that early fuck-me-now sexuality almost perfectly; the B-movie theme-ish 'Area 52'; and the ethereal 'Always' and 'Wedding Song'. The rest of the disc sounds good too, buuut...
What I Didn't Like:
That said, I must take issue with some things; firstly, I've always felt that Karen's voice is one of the hottest things ever committed to vinyl. So why is her voice subjected to so many effects and types of processing on this disc? There are some tracks where it fits perfectly (see 'These Paths' and 'Under The Earth', the latter needing it very much), but generally, it's in the way for me. Plus, as great a song as 'Sacrilege' is, I don't like that Karen see,ms to disappear from the last 3/4 of a minute from the track, leaving the chorus to finish up. And on a related note, why are the lyrics so repetitive? A lot of the disc has almost mantra-like lyrics. In particular, 'Under The Earth', 'Always' and 'Despair' feel very repetitive. I'm also still not sold on Dr. Octagon rapping on 'Buried Alive'; it sounds ok, but I'm not exactly a fan of rap in general so it doesn't do much for me. I'd also have been more interested if Karen and the good Doctor had been given more lyrical interplay. And possibly my biggest hangup-the specific lyrics of 'These Paths': I love this song, until Karen sings the line 'these pants/come off/against, against'. Whaaa??? What the hell? I really, really do not get it. I just can't understand why this lyric was so important to the song, despite its awkwardness. It's like a forced attempt at the early sexuality. I'm legit bothered by it.
A very good album, one that I would certainly recommend to fans of the band, who haven't taken the plunge, or prefer Fever To Tell to It's Blitz. To non-fans, it might be a harder sell, but it's still not a bad place to get acquainted with the band.