During "Fight Song," the anthem of punky Durham three-piece Pink Flag, Betsy "Lucky Flag" Shane laments the homogenization and hierarchy that eventually become any music scene: People spend too much money to wear worn clothes that look, somehow, more authentic. Others proselytize their ideas of what it means to be vegan or punk to those not interested. And bands have to "play the same chords as Thurston [Moore] on 'Une Mille Feuille'" to get respect.
Shane—who penned four of the six songs on her all-female band's split with the similarly spirited Durham trio The Homewreckers—certainly has a point, but the jab at atonal indie rock bands (the phrase "mille feuille" is the refrain of the Sonic Youth song "French Tickler," written by Thurston Moore) winks with its own irony. Indeed, the best moments of Pink Flag's half of this split come when the band augments its straightforward garage stomp with dissonance and counterintuitive melodic twists. The strident grind of Pink Flag's "Dirty Hair Party" throbs and scrapes against the melody like Sonic Youth's "100%," and the odd little guitar intervals that dance over the sinister bass line of "Urgency" recall Moore and Lee Ranaldo firing notes at each other during "Rain on Tin." During "School," Shane even flashes back to high school vows of violence by the bus stop. That is, it's a less ambitious or aggressive take on "Becky," a stronger tune by erstwhile Moore protégés Be Your Own Pet. You've got to be careful with the hand that feeds you best... Still, these six cuts are mostly a lot of fun.
Though The Homewreckers generally aim straight ahead, they need little but the voice of Jill Homewrecker to captivate: Like a Bull City breed between Superchunk's Mac McCaughan circa '91 and The Dirty Little Heaters' Reese McHenry circa right now, Jill roars into great big hooks with sneer ("One Shot") and through verses with a perfect dose of angst ("All Wheels, No Control"). The co-ed trio generally barrels ahead in straight, bold lines, but its one departure, "Nurse, I Spy Gypsies ... Run," suggests a band that can exist beyond the rugged rock template of this split. Using only two dozen words over four minutes, "Nurse" twists through changes, building from a whispery number into a rubbery alt.rock blaster before finally landing fully formed as a collapse-rebuild-collapse Crazy Horse-style assault. Great stuff.
Pink Flag plays Marvell Event Center Wednesday, Dec. 17, with The Middlemen and Secada. The 9 p.m. show costs $5.