Saturday, April 5, 2014

Review: Wussy live at Milkboy Philly, 4/3/14

                                          Photo by acidjack from

I walked up to Mark Messerly, bass player for the Cincinnati indierock band Wussy, after their gig at Milkboy Philly Thursday night and said, "Hey man, I just want you to know that I have been seeing you guys since the first album, and the way this all has progressed into this amazing controlled squall of complete noisy freakout onstage is really fucking impressive. You all are totally killing it, and I just wanted to make sure to tell you how much I appreciate you coming out here to do this." This huge smile came across his face and he clenched up both fists, and said, "Yesssssssss! That's so great to hear."

That's pretty much the totality of my review this time around.

I have previously gone on (and on and on -- perhaps, yes, like a putrid Stephen Bishop song from the mid-'70s) about the wonder that is this band. So, for that matter, has Robert Christgau.

You could go here to read what I wrote about their 2013 Philly show, or here to get the bigger picture.

I will just add this: the hybrid that Wussy has created of a twang/drone/squall full of melody and harmony is, as far as I can tell, the closest thing to simultaneously unique, powerful and hook-filled that I can find in the music world in 2014. They take the standard Americana vibe, paying particular attention to add extra bits from R.E.M., Neil Young and Gram Parsons, with male/female vocal harmonies that sometimes head for X and sometimes for more standard twang, but they contrast and juxtapose that against a rumble and thunder on the bottom end that brings bits of Joy Division into the room when least expected, and -- in the guitar department -- a controlled fury and, yes, squall (there's that word again) that rivals Sonic Youth and Electr-o-pura-era Yo La Tengo for sheer skronk and waves of chord and feedback-drenched glory. The addition of steel player John Erhardt has upped that guitar-fury ante so high that, when pitted against the formidable rhythm section, I get joyful visions of the Who circa 1975 or so.

Which is kind of ironic, because they opened the show with a gorgeous, building crescendo of a new song called "Teenage Wasteland" that pays deep and geeked-out homage to the wonder of being a (deeply geeked-out) fanboy (or girl) of the Who in the 1970s.

The first time I ever took someone who was completely unfamiliar with this band's catalog to go see them live, he turned to me, approximately 45 seconds into the first song, as Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker wailed away about saving money for a funeral dress and the band raged with them, and -- with a look like he had just found Jesus, Buddha, Allah and the Quaker Oats man cohabitating in a way that only John Prine could predict -- he said, "Holy SHIIIIIT, I'm glad I did this."

If you went to see them, you would too.

Which is what you should do.

Check the tour schedule. It should soon be chock full of dates supporting their soon-to-be-released new album, Attica.

And, putting on my Captain Serious hat for just a moment, let's not pretend that, in the modern world where making a living in music is already tough enough, this train of awesome that is this band can continue to roll on the tracks forever without a little more support from the music-obsessed among us. It's fucking hard to take a band out on the road and play for only 50-100 people (or fewer) a night no matter how much onstage glory gets created. (I've been there, and you get off the road after even a five-day mini-tour, and try to mentally walk a path through the never-ending conflict between the joy of the whole process and wondering why you fucking bother. Really).

Go see this band. Buy their albums. Make them keep getting in the van to be as great as they are. You'll be glad you did.

"Do you remember the moment you finally did something about it??
When the kick of the drum lined up with the beat of your heart.
Stuck in the corn maze with only a transistor radio.
Making paths with the sound waves and echoes in old Baba O."

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