Forever Sounds is the brand new album from Cincinnati’s Wussy, due for release on 4 March via Damnably. It is the band’s sixth full-length and their second to be released in the UK, after the 2012 compilation Buckeye and 2014’s Attica!. Forever Sounds finds Wussy crafting some of their most raw and melodic material to date, exploring such themes as hauntings, false prophets, aliens and The Big Lebowski, all blanketed inside layers of noise. Combining the raw energy of Nuggets-era psych with fuzzy 90’s dream pop, the effect is equally jagged and serene, a blend of singable Americana and “arena-drone”.
Wussy formed on a dare in 2001 when retired stonemason Chuck Cleaver (formerly of Ass Ponys) and Lisa Walker began playing together as a result of Cleaver’s stage fright. The duo’s first performance was largely unplanned but went without incident, so Mark Messerly was recruited on bass and later Joe Klug on drums and keys. The band’s newest member, John Erhardt, has helped Wussy truly come into its own, adding a David Gilmour-esque layer of heavy shoegaze pedal steel. Cleaver and Walker share singing and songwriting duties, trading lead vocals, harmonising in patterns on top of one another. Both are known for sharing tales of the supernatural combined with day-in-the-life portraits, both disquieting and tranquil.
Wussy have evolved over the last decade to become forerunners of New Midwestern Psychedelia. The band has been heralded by critics for both their songwriting and varied sonic palette, often drawing comparisons to admitted heroes, Television, Velvet Underground, Crazy Horse and Yo La Tengo. Wussy have recorded sessions for BBC 6Music’s Marc Riley/Gideon Coe and KEXP. They have showcased at SXSW and CMJ, and have supported several tours for fellow Ohioans Afghan Whigs and Heartless Bastards, as well as sharing the stage with bands such as Yo La Tengo, The Breeders, Best Coast, Mudhoney, Shonen Knife, Okkervil River, The Mekons, COME, Wreckless Eric and Jeffrey Lewis.
Following the band’s first US TV appearance (CBS) in 2014 and increased critical acclaim from the likes of Pitchfork and Spin, they headed to the studio to record Forever Sounds with renewed vigour and a new engineering team. John Hoffman and Jerri Queen (both of Vacation), along with John Curley (Afghan Whigs), at Curley’s Ultrasuede Studios enabled the band to take more chances and create the sound they had always been reaching for. Although the new album is a natural progression from 2012’s Strawberry and 2014’s Attica!, the cleaner production of previous records has been set aside for a move towards shoegaze and drone rock sounds. While their pop sensibilities remain intact, the mix and instrumentation are more reminiscent of the band’s noise-heavy live shows. There are quiet moments, as with all Wussy records; but the overarching sonic theme is a wash of heavy psychedelia.
Lyrically, the album deals with themes of the unknown, the archaic and the occult. The artwork for the album ties in with these, which as usual was designed by the band’s own Lisa Walker. As she explains: “The images all deal with the ‘fantastic’ co-existing with the everyday natural world. Pyramids and caverns, the greatest wonders of man and nature respectively, turned tourist attractions: the Northern Lights, meteor showers, the superstitions and symbols of our Amish neighbors, unnoticed art tiles laid in busy intersections around the world.”
Songs such as opener “Dropping Houses” (written by Walker) reference the artwork, which features the famous “Toynbee Tiles” - a mysterious art piece of unknown origin found inlaid in the roads of Cincinnati and other cities around the world. The song looks back at a toxic relationship and mentions the Wizard of Oz (“dropping houses”). Other pop culture references abound, such as “Donny’s Death Scene” (written by Walker), which eulogizes Donny Kerabatsos in the Coen Brothers movie The Big Lebowski. Cleaver’s “She’s Killed Hundreds” is about hearing the fantastic tales of someone or something that you’ve lost, with a sly nod to MacArthur Park (“spring was never waiting for us, girl”). And the co-written “Better Days” - a song referencing a day at the county fair, the feeling of getting on a rickety ride…or getting up in the morning: optimistic but still unsure.
Wussy were once described by former Homestead Records boss (and fan) Ken Katkin like this: “In Lisa Walker, Chuck had joined forces with the next generation's contender for poet laureate of middle-America's working class.” Although musically the band create a wash of catchy fuzzed out drone rock, it is the duo’s songwriting abilities that really shine. Forever Sounds is aptly titled. The album’s ten tracks are full of hope, determination, heartbreak, deception, aliens, the supernatural, the everyday, friendship, love and second chances. This is a record to be savoured and cherished. Forever.
Forever Sounds - Damnably - 4 March 2016
“Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker find a novel way to attack subjects as tried and tested as flings and break-ups.” The Guardian
“Recalling a roll call of adventurous boy/girl-styled indie bands: Yo La Tengo, Handsome Family, X, Wussy draws on plenty of yin/yang sexual and existential tension, a charmingly shambling, rough-hewn sound, and an army of alternately droning and jangling guitars on their sharpest outing yet.” Uncut
“One of the best indie-rock albums of the year. If this is happiness, it's not a conventional portrait. But this one features both a signature sound and a healthy dose of Middle American weirdness, so it'll do.” - NPR SONG OF THE DAY
“Compact packages with maximum singability and staying power squeezed into minimal space…’ Pitchfork: 7.8 (of 10)