Some words that describe legendary underground Cincinnati band The Wolverton Brothers include: enduring, eccentric, inventive, singular, influential. The band adds three more words to that canon with their sixth album, Old, Ugly and Loud, which is being released by Ionik Recordings this Saturday at the Northside Tavern. Local newcomers Starhustler open the show. Old, Ugly and Loud comes 20 years after the Wols’ first album. The band has become one of the most important groups in Cincinnati during that time, inspiring many local musicians, not necessarily sonically, but from the standpoint that the Wols have never come close to caving to “trends,” always following their own muse, no matter what dark recess she may lead them.
The results of their collaborations have been consistently fascinating and fantastically imaginative. They are one of the few groups that have genuinely developed an original sound all their own.
Not that they stay in any one place for too long. The band’s last album, 2004’s A Better Place, was their best yet, showing an evolution, though in no way showing any kind of “maturity” nonsense. The band members’ collective experiences in other bands and in the art world seem to come together perfectly, resulting in Art Rock for the ages, slanted, enchanted and the kind of album you can come back to a thousand times and still not wholly expect what’s coming next. Old, Ugly and Loud follows that course.
The guitars alternate between a big, almost frighteningly engulfing wash (this is definitely a more rockin’ album than the past couple of Wols releases) to sideways, atmospheric noise to those angular Post Punk riffs they are perhaps best known for. The melodic bass lines and adventureleading drums create the groundwork, adding to the hypnotic sway of several of the more wandering tracks and the sideways swagger of the others. A fair dose of effected sounds, impulsive skronk and electronic idiosyncrasies swoop in and out of tracks like seagulls diving for fish in a contaminated swamp, while Tim Schwallie’s low vocal murmur adds another gruff layer to the band’s distinctive aural personality.
Among the highlights are “A Better Place” (yes, the Wols put the “title track” of their last album on this one instead), a driving, slinking rumbler with a huge, lacerating guitar slash in the chorus that gives way to an almost Surf Rock glide. “Informer” features a dark croon from Schwallie (perhaps his best vocal turn on the album) and stumbles into a nightmarish freak-out of squeals and screams, a fitting end to an album that serves as an aural mind-fuck for the undersexed.
The Wolverton Brothers are Cincinnati’s Sonic Youth and Butthole Surfers. They don’t really sound like them (or any other band), but like those unclassifiable veterans, the Wols impress and inspire by their sheer lack of filter and their dedication to marching exclusively to their own demented drum corps. (myspace.com/thewolvertonbrothers)