Wussy’s Left For Dead
Left for Dead, Wussy’s second album, allows us to take the full measure of Lisa Walker as a bandleader. To me she looks very large, and growing. The band’s previous album, Funeral Dress, split the songwriting and lead vocal duties equally between Walker and her more well-known co-leader Chuck Cleaver, formerly of the Ass Ponys. But this even better album, my favorite of 2007, features eight (of 12) tracks written and sung by Walker alone and two more co-written with Cleaver, leaving no doubt who’s in charge, at least for now.
The themes are sex and cars, the lessons are about how to avoid death, the metaphors are religious, and the guitar sound is louder, fuzzier and more dominating then on Walker’s songs on the more tuneful Funeral Dress. The key sequence is songs two to six, beginning with “Rigor Mortis” (which, happily, is a primer on how to avoid it in your relationship: “I will smuggle something in to get me through/I’m resigned that I can’t win this fight with you”) and ending with “Jonah,” a tribute to a backseat of the car lover (“Angels sing around you in a chorus all night long/and you transcribe their expressions in the morning with a song about it”) that might even be Chuck. Throughout the sequence Walker’s guitar and vocals waver, strain, burst out in surprising places and provide evidence that joy can win out over depression.
Chuck does get several pivotal moments to speak, including one and a half of the two funny songs on the album, “Sun Giant Says Hey” (co-written with Walker) and “God’s Camaro,” in which his longstanding engagement with weirdo Americana produces a genuinely fabulous conceit, washing the car as washing your sins away. He also gets the better part of the complaint on the co-written cheating song “Whatz-‘is-name.”
For me, this is a hard moment to be a fan of indie rock, with young writer-guitarists turning toward orchestration as a means to do something new. While the sound of the new indie is a more honest and organic “art rock” then the trite orchestral guitar sound of 30 year ago, it still moves rock and roll away from the basics some of us have believed in, straight shooting lyrics and a good backbeat. Wussy finds it’s innovation elsewhere, in places that might seem purely sociological until you perceive how thoroughly and conceptually they are weaved into every note: the collaboration of musicians and lovers twenty years apart in age, where the riot girl gets to kick the old guy’s ass for the length of an album. This is not a worn-out fantasy; in fact, it’s damned new.
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