For a brief moment in the mid 1980s, I was entranced with a number of Southern alternative rockers who were following in the seminal footsteps of REM. Most of them were a bit more sonically inclined then the band that put Athens, Georgia on the map. Groups like the DB’s, Pylon, Guadalcanal Diary, and Fetchin’ Bones were just edgy enough to capture my interest. But as REM started adding more and more feedback to their studio and live performances, it all got old, and I moved on to Butthole Surfers and Sonic Youth.
The Cincinnati band Wussy reminds me a lot of those Southern groups who were dancing on the precipice of noise legend. Wussy features ex-Ass Pony’s guitarist Chuck Cleaver, Lisa Walker on vocals, organ, and guitars, multi-instrumentalist Mark Messerly, and Dawn Burman on drums. For the most part, this album is an extremely subdued, acoustically oriented effort with some moments of highly intense guitar leads and noise acting as counter-metaphors to the malaise and abandonment found in the lyrics.
The album as a whole takes a few listens before it smacks you with the walloping emotional impact the band intended. Funeral Dress is the anti-Nirvana, delivering tales of emotional devastation with the finesse of a fine surgeon removing your vital organs while you lay unconscious in a bathtub packed with ice.
Lisa Walker’s vocals bring to mind Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star. Sandoval certainly has a wider range and is more experimental, but Walker compliments the disparate elements of Wussy’s music extremely well, modulating between both very bright and very dark tones, much like Sandoval. Walker’s job as front woman for the band must be a challenging one. Cleaver’s guitar work threatens to walk away with the show at times, as does Messerly. But Walker is clearly in control, and she guides the group through each blackened tunnel it navigates, leading it to the eventual light on the other end.