This Wussy article was written by James Dawson, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Fraisia Dunn. Photo by Sean Hughes
The cliché about Wussy is that they’re the best band you’ve never heard. It’s been said so often they’ve gradually generated some fame off it. That, and their consistently excellent music of course. So, eleven years after their debut, and now on their sixth album, they may have managed to quit their day jobs. Maybe. That wasn’t the case three years ago, when lead singers Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker play to a crowd of no more than fifteen people in a record shop in Oxford — the other members couldn’t get the time off work to come to the UK. But even with just the two of them, every song was a classic and came across so raw; every emotion bared. Walker’s bittersweet country tone jarring just right with Cleaver’s strained drawl.
On 2014’s ‘Attica!’ Wussy have produced their most expansive music, and garnered their greatest acclaim yet. The confidence is palpable as ‘Forever Sounds’ opens with blistering intensity on the gliding, yet hard-edged shoegaze of ‘Dropping Houses.’ What usually draws you in on a Wussy track is the interplay between Walker and Cleaver, one on lead, the other providing a counterpoint. Here though they take a backseat to the layered guitar feedback, the irresistible current of the rhythm. On ‘She’s Killed Hundreds’, the bottom drops out of the music, overdriven bass, searing guitar, at the chorus and Cleaver whispers, as if telling you a secret, “she’s killed hundreds, maybe more.” The line quivers like a knife thrown into a wall, casting Walker’s whispering background vocal in a horrible new light.
As with bands like Social Distortion, Wussy have always worn their influences on their sleeve, yet been able to harness them into making something totally singular. On ‘Forever Sounds’ you might hear Ride, Can, or The Beatles in the psychedelic ‘Hand Of God’, any number of 90’s alt bands like Sebadoh, or Cleaver’s own Ass Ponys, on the thrilling ‘Sidewalk Sale.’ With ‘Gone’ and ‘Hello I’m A Ghost’ there’s an echo of Guided By Voices; that sound of pop being played from the bottom of a well, but weirder, the music more sprawling, Cleaver’s voice harder to gainsay than Robert Pollard’s. Each time he reaches the line “Hello, I’m a ghost” it’s so casual and plain, so totally unnerving.
A fog sets in towards the back end of the album with the quiet ‘Better Days’ and ‘Majestic-12.’ There’s an unsettling stillness about them, almost like tinnitus, a distant ringing. When ‘My Parade’ starts in the same vein you think the album’s going to slump and drop dead. But then it breaks open with such a placid sweetness to it, the fuzztone guitar now pulling it on rather than dragging it down. The effect, building over the three tracks, is obvious, but overwhelming.
Wussy may not be churning out the classic country-rock sing-alongs like they used to, but with ‘Attica!’ and ‘Forever Sounds’ their music is growing immeasurably more complex and rewarding. This gets richer with every listen.
‘Forever Sounds’ is out now via Shake It (US release) and Damnably (UK release).
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