Wussy – Wussy

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

The economics of music are a bastard. Wussy is undeniably a great band. They are talented, proficient artists, and one band member already has a track record of excellence (to the extent that should matter). Their albums are released on a tiny label run out of a Cincinnati record shop. They all have day jobs:  Mark Messerly is a special ed teacher; Lisa Walker worked as a server at a vegan restaurant; and Chuck Cleaver was a stonemason until his back gave out (I think he is now a record dealer). You could make the argument that their music would suffer without this “regular” element to their lives, but that’s a bit insulting – why give such short shrift to their powers of imagination and creativity, and who’s to say that if they had more free time they wouldn’t be better songwriters and musicians? This band, and many others, deserves to be able to make a living from music.

What I Think of This Album

Another charmer from Cincinnati’s oddest ducks, the song titles on Wussy include “Scream and Scream Again;” “Dreadful Sorry;” “This Will Not End Well;” “Gone Missing;” “Happiness Bleeds;” and naturally, “Death By Misadventure.” Adding to the tone is the inescapable fact that this is very obviously a relationship album, and that Walker and Cleaver were a romantic couple at this point. Or at least a couple, and “romantic” may have a flexible definition.

Whereas Walker dominated Left for Dead, she and Cleaver split the songwriting evenly here, as if having a conversation over the course of 12 tracks. And how does that conversation play out? Let’s see. Tentative opening salvo “Little Paper Birds” contains the lyric “I finally got your letter / And your punctuation hit me like a truck” before resolving with “It’s alright / We’ve got all night.” But “Gone Missing” responds with “We met the other day on the catapult / When they threw us to the dogs you were at my throat,” and then Walker observes “Now my heart is on my sleeve / Or what’s left of it / It always ends.” Cleaver cheerily reminisces about “puking down the side of the car” on the musically upbeat “Happiness Bleeds” before calling to mind “Sadness at the edge of your eyes / Surrounded by the darkness of a dead winter sky / Something like a kiss on the temple and the word ‘goodbye.’” Later, we get “Some call this living / But I call this living in hell” (“Dreadful Sorry”), and then “There’s no denying all the sadness that’s occurred” (“Magic Words”); and finally “Was that the last straw?” (“Maglite”)

More? Well, yes, there is plenty more, thank God. Almost every track here deserves a close listen, even beyond the lyrics, whether it is the spindly percussion and domineering bass line of “Little Paper Birds;” the organ and pedal steel parts and Walker’s harmonies on “Happiness;” the stop-start rhythm and the interplay of Walker and Cleaver’s voices on “Muscle Cars;” or the circus organ and distorted guitars (and cowbell!) of “Scream and Scream Again.” The crystalline bells on “Magic Words” are nicely offset by a fuzz guitar. A jumpy bass defines the harmony-crowned “This Will Not End Well” – and let me take a moment to praise master of all trades Mark Messerly, without whom Wussy would not sound even a tenth as fascinating. “Maglite” again benefits from bells and a sweet guitar/bass riff, as well as Cleaver’s response harmonies; this is the best song on the album (“Is this a late show / Or a fistfight? / I’ve got my crossbow / You’ve got your maglite”). “Death By Misadventure” bristles with dark energy, while “Las Vegas” is spare and melancholy. Finally, I should note that drummer Dawn Berman grew by leaps and bounds, but this was her last album with the band.

The Best Thing About This Album

Never in my life have I run across a lyric like “It’s kindergarten / And you’re jumping on a dead and bloated horse” (“This Will Not End Well”). Holy. Fuck.

Release Date

May, 2009

The Cover Art

The third cover designed by Walker, and the third dud. The colors are weird and the imagery is perplexing. I do like the band name across the chicks’ fronts.

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