The Upshot: The Cincinnati band is as drone-y, discordant, dreamy and deranged as ever in crafting the kaleidoscopic sonic soundscape of its brilliant new album.
BY BARRY ST. VITUS
Ohio’s list of awesome bands that it’s spawned over the years is as long as your arm, certainly too long to include here. The Velvet Underground, it is said, always was received most warmly in Cleveland on their tours, so, as an ex-pat Buckeye it’s something in our blood, I guess.
Cincinnati’s self-described Midwestern drone band, Wussy is perhaps the latest, greatest to stand out on the roster. A spin-off of Chuck Cleaver’s Ass Ponys, the band formed in 2001 and now presents us with its 6th full-length project—and it’s as drone-y, discordant, dreamy and deranged as ever. Forever Sounds (Shake It/Damnably) is a kaleidoscopic, sonic soundscape, engagingly recorded at John Curley’s (Afghan Whigs) facility, Ultrasuede Studios.
Indeed, the musicians had the full support and encouragement of their producers to really push the limits beyond what had come before and reach a new zenith in their sound, capturing the lightning in the bottle of their dynamic live shows. Lisa Walker’s and Cleaver’s latest songs were executed with aplomb by all, including Mark Messerly on bass, Joe Klug’s drums, and the pedal steel mastery of John Ehrhardt.
The last couple of years have been good to Wussy, and found them very productive, riding on the heels of their new found success, a European tour and spotlighted on CBS This Morning, that exposed them to millions of people. Promoting Forever Sounds, they are heading cross-country on tour soon, then off to England, Wales and Scotland in late April, and into early May.
The album leads off with “Dropping House,” with its exquisite wall of sound and din falling on you like the Mercer Arts Center. Likewise for the reckless ruckus and uproar on “Sidewalk Sale.” You will also bask in discordant feedback on the splendid and echo-plexed “Gone,” featuring Chuck’s vocalizing. Chuck also offers up a couple that he penned, but presented after the sessions had wrapped up and everyone heading out. After hearing him play “Hello, I’m A Ghost” (shades of the late Ass Ponys) and “She’s Killed Hundreds,” (watch video) equipment was unpacked and set up again to get to work on creating and capturing these gems on tape, thankfully, and giving us another 7 minutes of music to slobber over.
“Better Days,” a lovely, carefree number, and “Majestic 12,” both showcase Lisa’s deft and delicate writing, and ethereal singing skills, as does “Hand Of God,” (shades of the late Viva Voce) where her soft, breathy vocals prompts one to envision a soft, downy chick nestled in a nest of barbwire, as the music swirls and pulses around her voice. Track ten wraps them up with another one sung by Cleaver, “My Parade,” showcasing his ragged frayed and weary voice cushioned by Ehrhardt’s capable pedal steel playing.
A big doff of the hat to Shake It Records and others for keeping the faith in Wussy music, and promoting these magically talented guys. Hopefully they’ll get their due with Forever Sounds. at long last, and not just be a critic’s-favored, rarefied Best Band You Never Heard Of much longer.
Photo Credit: John Curley
Wussy will be touring this month—including tonight and tomorrow in Chicago— and well into June. Check their official website for dates. Below: Wussy live on KEXP in 2014.