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Wild Flag: Wild Flag (Merge) 

It's so tempting to have the "riot grrrl" conversation when talking about Wild Flag's debut—especially since the album is so steeped in that sound.

It really does bear the mark of its makers' past efforts. Many of these songs could be off a lost Sleater-Kinney album, and others resonate, if not with Helium's dream-pop, then with the angular math-rock sound of Mary Timony's old band Autoclave.

But since the release of Wild Flag has been accompanied by such fanfare, after months of NPR-sponsored anticipation, it makes sense to wonder why we want to revisit riot grrrl right now. Is it just the cult success of Portlandia that's got us all worked up? Wild Flag seems to take that show's jokey theme-song premise quite seriously: It is time to relive the '90s, dammit. After all, for as good as this album sounds, it does not sound fresh.

If riot grrrl was indie rock's The Vagina Monologues, it had a similar problem with stridency and lack of wit. And while Wild Flag has the same self-seriousness problem ("I am a racehorse!" notwithstanding), its aspirations are clearly more about rocking out than crafting a narrative about gender.

Maybe that dismissal of identity politics is the take-away here, and Wild Flag is an opportunity to simply wax nostalgic without all the baggage.

More by Sean Bottai

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