Sunday, February 10, 2013

Wussy -- a genuine American treasure

It was 2005, and I had heard a few good things about Wussy's first album, Funeral Dress, and so I bought it. All I knew when I put it on was what someone had told me: "It's Chuck from the Ass Ponys and his girlfriend Lisa, who has a kickass voice."

And I kinda lost my mind. I loved them.

My description at the time went something like this, no doubt in a high-speed, excited tone: "Dude! [Note: It always starts with "dude!"] This band is working this crazy Pixies-crossed-with-Neil-Young-loud/soft-Americana thing, but they sound like they wanna drone the fuck out of something at times too! They're awesome! Ok, the drummer doesn't seem to be awesome, but she's all right, and everything else is... Awesome!!!!"

Then I saw them as part of the bill at Twangfest in St Louis that year (or was it 2006?) and my description held.... Sadly, including the drummer. I loved the band, but she wasn't very good, and I kinda felt bad for her because, as I understood it, she had learned how to play drums specifically to join this band. But I distinctly remember my very English musician friend Louise coming up to me mid-set, interrupting my enraptured state and screaming at me full bore in her very English accent: "You're a fucking *drummer*, man! How can you like this?" My answer amounted to loving the records and loving everything else about them live and just kinda putting up with the drums. Go have another drink, my friend. It's a festival set. It can't go more than an hour. I went back to digging them.

But she had a point about the drums. They were dragging the band down a little -- enough, as a matter of fact, that when that show was over, I took a break from the band for a bit, still buying the records, but I didn't make a point to see them again for a while.

Fast forward: I next saw Wussy in the spring of 2010 in Philly. I had heard that the drummer had been replaced by a dude who could, to quote another friend, "really fucking play," and that Wussy had been officially and quickly launched into stratospheric heights of double-awesomeness as a live band.

My god, was that description ever spot-on.

See, the first three records -- Funeral Dress, Left For Dead and Wussy -- are great. (This was the tour supporting the third album). Those albums work the said Americana/Neil/loud/soft/Pixies/jangly/hell-of-a-lot-louder-than-jangly juxtaposition really really well. The drumming is competent, and I don't think it sticks out as awful, but it's not driving the boat, and, underneath it all, I really *really* want the drummer to steer that fucker, and lock it all down.

Enter drummer Joe Klug. He joined Wussy after the third album and before that 2010 tour, and he is *perfect* for this band. And when I saw the overwhelming look of joy on bass player Mark Messerly's face as they launched into "Funeral Dress" to start that 2010 show, and I heard the roar, and the groove and everything that makes live rock and roll a life-affirming gift, I knew they had hit their stride, and were going to stay there.

That show was perfect, and the record that followed, 2011's Strawberry, was pretty close as well, upping the drone factor a bit, while still keeping all the other elements that make Wussy their own unique snowflake of genius amidst a sea of mediocrity.

And they keep pushing the envelope. They did an acoustic reworking of their first record that somehow works, upping the twang and the jangle, but losing none of the intensity. And then, just recently, they released a freebie album of rarities, live stuff, and goofball moments. And all the while -- from what I hear -- they just keep getting better as a live band, having added former Ass Ponys guitarist John Erhardt on pedal steel.

And I say, "from what I hear," because they came through Philly last summer but I wasn't there because the show conflicted with that amazing vacation that I was on at the time.

So let's just say that I kinda lost my mind a little (yes, again) when I heard that, on March 8, Wussy is playing a show at the North Star Bar in Philly. Tickets are ten dollars. I have mine. Yes, ten dollars. For the love of all that is good and right, go see this band and help them sell it out. Yes, I secretly hate their name too (Wussy? Really?) but they are a force of nature live. Show 'em some love.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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