Scoring major glowing reviews in national music magazines for your first two albums might intimidate some artists. But for Wussy, set to release its newest (a self-titled effort) for locally-based Shake It Records, a natural progression and tightness has resulted in their best album yet.
The brilliant Wussy will get “CD release partied” Friday at the Northside Tavern. The free 10 p.m. show also features Louisville’s The Fervor. The band, which heads to Cleveland for a release show Saturday, will also do an in-performance at Shake It’s store in Northside Friday at 7 p.m. The album (the third full-length for the band) will be released nationally on April 20. Friday’s show will also mark the band’s first with new drummer Joe Klug, formerly of Staggering Statistics (which also featured John Curley, producer of the new disc).
Wussy’s self-titled album is a culmination of everything the band does well: eccentric but grippingly clever wordplay, crafty vocal interplay and dirty, buzzing Pop songs that bubble with soulful energy and heart-baring emotions. While the band’s last album, Left for Dead, seemed to more showcase the vocal talents of Lisa Walker, she splits and shares duties more evenly with co-frontperson Chuck Cleaver on Wussy.
There is something magical about the duo’s musical partnership, evidenced by the interwoven counter melodies and backups one provides while the other takes the lead. The album also regains some of the rawness of its debut, Funeral Dress, without losing the crispness of Left for Dead. It’s fitting that this one is self-titled — so far, it’s the definitive Wussy release.
Though often buoyant and upbeat musically, there is a lot of heartbreak seething between the alternately jangly and dirging guitars and utilityman/secret weapon Mark Messerly’s superb, perfect-fit ornamentation (he offers up everything from accordion and mandolin to bells and lap steel on the disc). Walker and Cleaver are two of the best lyricists in town, and on Wussy they shine brighter than ever.
On the shimmering “Gone Missing,” one of many highlights, Walker fragilely sings, “We met the other day on the catapult/ When they threw us to the dogs, you were at my throat/ It’s funny what you do, do to get my goat/ Well, honey, you’re the pain and the antidote.” Meanwhile, Cleaver’s depressive poetics explode on “Death by Misadventure”: “The note you left me on the door said ‘Go away, I’m sleeping’/ And so I leave, but I believe that you’ve been entertaining someone else/ So I do what I think I’m supposed to, and I entertain myself.”
Other highlights include the chill-inducing opener “Little Paper Birds,” which features the two singers harmonizing over a creepy, creepingly ambient bed of sleepy guitars and lazy beats. The driving, reflective “Happiness Bleeds” harkens back to some of Cleaver’s trademark imagery in the Ass Ponys (“I remember stumbling down the side of the road/ Reeling from the ill effects of licking a toad”) and features a great bridge which bounces with poppy “la la las” that are as leering and sarcastic as they are bubbly. “Muscle Cars” is another stand-out, as guitars slash and stab while Cleaver and Walker trade lines on what might just be the best chorus they’ve ever written.
As with many bands that feature dual vocalists of the opposite sex, there’s an apparent tension (real or imagined) that manifests itself at times on Wussy, not just in the vocal interaction but in nearly every facet of the album. Tension can kill lesser bands, but Wussy has channeled it so masterfully on this release it feels like a rebirth.