Wussy – Buckeye

January 01, 1970

(Damnably Records)  




Cincinnati’s Wussy falls under the category of a “Best Band You’ve Never
Heard Of” but should make it your business to get acquainted with.  A flicker of recognition may glimmer when the
Ass Ponys are mentioned, as they were acclaimed in the indie-rock scene in
their day. Their music had a country-rock element to it, but they were
alternative all the way.  Chuck Cleaver,
front-man then and now, along with musical, and ex-romantic partner Lisa
Walker, wear their hearts on their sleeves here, dirt is dished, raw nerves
exposed and emotions laid bare in much of their music. (Shades of the Mendosa
Line.) That’s not to say there aren’t some lovely and hauntingly beautiful
melodies to be found in most of the material – there’s plenty. But mostly Wussy
loves to pull out all the stops and crank out a stoney-droney squall that wraps
vine-like around the songs.


Both Cleaver’s quavering warble and Walker’s keening soprano, separately
or co-mingled, are outstanding. Their harmonizing together has an almost
cross-eyed quality to it, sound-wise. Music scholar Robert Christgau has long
pointed to them as the “best band in America,” and added their first two
albums, Funeral Dress and Left For Dead to his Best of the Decade
list. The Washington Post nailed it
with, “Few bands since the Velvet-steeped heyday of The Feelies, Yo La Tengo
and R.E.M. have abandoned themselves so completely to the ebbing, flowing
currents of keening, droning rock.”


More’s the pity that they remained under any music fans’ radar this
long, but Buckeye is your catch-up opportunity, as it is a
‘best of’ collection plucked from their first 5 albums, excluding the
all-acoustic Funeral Dress II.  I personally think it a glaring error to not
include “Yellow Cotton Dress,” “This Will Not End Well” and “Happiness Bleeds”
in the batch, but those can easily be collected later. For a band that exudes
such amazing music and brilliant creativity that draws high critical praise
from the press, it’s a shock to know that Cleaver still must labor as a
stonemason, a job that’s destroying his back after years, and that Walker is
waitressing in a Queen City vegan restaurant.


On the good news side, the band is heading off
for their first tour overseas, sweeping through England and Wales in September
after cutting a swath through the Midwest and South, which finishes in October
upon their return stateside. Their British leg starts and ends in London, which
includes a BBC6 interview and playing a party at Damnably label. This major
push promises to help goose up their recognition as fans will probably drag
their friends to the shows, and more positive press shall ensue. Too many great
bands have withered away over the years never getting the recognition that they
so richly deserve.


Suggesting only 3 standout tracks from this
collection of 17 is a near impossible task; I might as well just pull some song
titles from a hat. Better still, don’t be a wussy and just plunk down the
spondoolies and pick your own faves!


STANDOUT TRACKS: “Maglite,” “Airborne,” and “Pizza King.”  BARRY ST. VITUS



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