High Risk Group – “Flag” 7”
Harriet Records, 1989
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2009
Through the 1990s, the Cambridge, Massachusetts based label released almost exactly half as many 7”s as Sarah Records. They brought us the Magnetic Fields, the Mountain Goats and the Extra Glenns, Tullycraft, Vehicle Flips, and Hulaboy. While Harriet’s releases were much more varied than the uniform, rainy day pop of Sarah, I still want to collect as many as I possibly can. It was pretty easy to find all of the Sarah Records releases on the internet, but the Harriet Records 7”s are near impossible to track down in digital form (or they were the last time I tried to find an MP3 version of that amazing Ampersands “Annabelle Bleach” 7” I own) which makes hunting down the vinyl all the more thrilling. Though I usually associate Harriet with indie pop, their first release—High Risk Group’s “Flag” 7”—is a hearty slice of DIY post-punk. The music is repetitive, bass-driven, and the band attempts to carve out interesting sonics with their guitar sound but it gets lost in the shoddy mixing (especially on the B side tracks “Tapped” and “Katrine”). Ultimately it’s the title track that feels like the best distillation of High Risk Group (go figure, huh). It’s a murky, serpentine and lulls you into that dark, post-punky sound with its cycling minute-and-a-half long intro that consumes half the song. Hilariously, I played this at 33 1/3 because I’d noticed side two was designated for that speed. What I got was borderline sludge metal and even when the vocals finally kicked in, I still couldn’t tell I was playing it wrong. That’s versatility right there!