But with each successive release, Wussy’s edge-of-cliff nature gradually dissipated. By the time of the rockers’ third album, an eponymous affair in 2009, Wussy had become a more confident, cohesive unit. But not in the way, say, Paul Westerberg went from alcoholic Punk poet to “mature” singer/songwriter.
As the band’s fourth full-length, Strawberry, shows, Wussy isn’t getting boring; they’re just getting better. Which, considering how powerful albums like 2007’s Left for Dead were, is almost scary.
Every Wussy album to date is connected by Cleaver’s and Walker’s distinct vocals, astonishing songwriting and lyrical quirkiness/poetic genius, as well as utility dude Mark Messerly’s tasteful, remarkably creative ornamentation. But, outside of that, each album has been fairly different from the previous one. Strawberry is not only the most accomplished record in the Wussy catalog but it’s also the band’s most dynamic and diverse.
Strawberry features a few psychedelic nuggets that are truly mesmerizing. The flowing “Little Miami” chugs along on a bed of chiming guitar pricks, wavering, tremelo-ed chords and plodding Velvet Underground drums as Walker sings a melody that’s somehow both big-sky expansive and whispered-in-your-ear intimate. Similarly, lead-off track “Asteroid” has a bit of Pscyh Rock glaze, with a single phrase repeated over the skyward, Theremin-drenched rocking. Elsewhere, “Chicken” is a sultry, slinky track PJ Harvey would be proud to call her own, and cuts like the Pere Ubu-ish “Pulverized” and the snarling “Fly Fly Fly” provide a Punk Rock counterpoint to gentler songs like Walker’s beautiful, piano-driven ballad “Magnolia” and Cleaver’s melancholic “Waiting Room.”
There are some brilliant lyrics on Strawberry. Too many to mention, actually, but here’s an early favorite from “Wrist Rocket”: “I didn’t know what you had planned/Til you removed the ampersand/From in between your name and mine.” As usual, you might have as much fun reading the lyric sheet as listening to the music. Together, they make for a completely engrossing listening experience. Grade: A