Forever Sounds is the brand new album from Cincinnati’s Wussy, due for release on 4 March via Damnably and Shake It Records. It is the band’s sixth full-length. 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 in 2001 when retired Stonemason, Chuck Cleaver (formerly of Ass Ponys) and Lisa Walker began playing together as result of a dare. 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. The band’s newest member, pedal-steel player John Erhardt, has enabled Wussy to truly come into its own. Cleaver and Walker share singing and songwriting duties, trading lead vocals, harmonising, and singing in vocal swoops and patterns on top of each other, 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 are known both for 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, the band headed to the studio to record Forever Sounds with renewed vigour and a new engineering team. John Hoffman and Jerri Queen at John Curley’s (Afghan Whigs) 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 and the superstitions and symbols of our Amish neighbors are like 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” from Cincinnati, an art piece of unknown origin. The song looks back at an old 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 is about Donny in the Coen Brothers movie The Big Lebowski. Cleaver’s “She’s Killed Hundreds” is about hearing the fantastic tales of someone you lost and has a subtle nod to MacArthur Park (“spring was never waiting for us, girl”) and the co-written “Better Days” is about feeling happy but nervous, 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 this incredibly catchy fuzzed out drone rock, it is the duo’s song writing abilities that really shine. Forever Sounds is aptly titled. The album’s ten tracks are full of hope, determination, heartbreak, deception, aliens, supernatural, the everyday, conspiracy theories, friendship, love and second chances. This is a record to be savoured and cherished. Forever.
Chuck Cleaver – vocals / guitar / etc
Lisa Walker – vocals / guitar / etc
Mark Messerly – bass / keys / etc
Joe Klug – drums / keys / etc
John Erhardt – pedal steel / guitar / etc
In the Press
Imagine a Yo La Tengo too tight to get cute or far out, dispensing a Velvet Underground derivative, fluent enough to warm the erectile tissue of anyone with a thing for guitar drones. 4 stars
The band sound is more Velvets than Burritos, yet country still. It’s as if they’ve reduced all of white Ohio to an articulated drone, unlocked a silo or warehouse of hummable tunes, and worked out the harmonies. – Robert Christgau
Pitchfork: 7.8 (of 10)
Compact packages with maximum singability and staying power squeezed into minimal space.. (read more)
AllMusic Guide: 4/5
Wussy’s tales of the messy facts of real lives are moving, brave, and thoroughly believable, and the music possesses a rough beauty that’s coolly revelatory; this is a first-rate band doing first-rate work, and if you honestly care about American rock at its best, this is music you should get to know. (read more)
In which the best band in America remains the best song band in America while passing the Sonic Youth consortium on the outside to become the best distorto-guitar band in America, and although the competition in both categories has thinned out, how many ever dared combine it? Television? Nirvana? The Thompson Couple? That is the territory here…
David Schmader, The Stranger :
Cincinnati’s Wussy is a rock band that’ll remind you on the deepest level why you love rock bands. Fronted by former Ass Pony Chuck Cleaver and the previously unaffiliated Lisa Walker, Wussy’s central conceit is to submerge pristine, literate songwriting in the rumble and roar of a full band.
Ann Powers, Slate : Music Club Best of 2014
The ragged, majestic rock of the Cincinnati band Wussy.. has been crashing toward sublimity for nearly 15 years (and whose co-leader, Chuck Cleaver, led the amazing Ass Ponys for 12 years before that), and whose 2014 album Attica! proved that guitar rock about ordinary people can still be profound, even in our bold new age of soft technology.
Charles Taylor, LA Review of Books :
Because they are fans, because this music has long been their chosen vehicle for expression, they test it to see if it can still provide a kind of transcendence, or at least a way of speaking that will make sense of the life around them.
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. 4 stars
An unmistakable identity…this collection proves that Wussy are certainly a band with an incredibly rich past and, undoubtedly, an equally rich future.
NPR Song of the Day :
Few bands since the Velvet-steeped heyday of the Feelies, Yo La Tengo and R.E.M. have abandoned themselves so completely to the ebbing, flowing currents of keening, droning guitars.
Wussy is a weird and wonderful band with a capital B. Strawberry distills down the best parts of all the parties involved to make their first truly classic record, one that will be talked about at length this year and for many more to come.
New York Times:
Mindful drone-rockers from Ohio are alternately terse and liquiform in all the right places.
A truly classic record, one that will be talked about at length this year and for many more to come.
CBS This Morning – Critically Acclaimed Band Wussy Going Strong by Anthony Mason
Los Angeles Review of Books – Support Your Local Wussy by Charles Taylor
Cincinnati Magazine – Battle Cries and Butterflies by Robert Christgau
New York Observer – Little Known Band with Big Sound by Vicki Wheeler
- 2005 – Funeral Dress (Shake It)
- 2007 – Left for Dead (Shake It)
- 2008 – Rigor Mortis EP (Shake It)
- 2009 – Wussy (Shake It)
- 2009 – “Fly Fly Fly”/”No Apology” – Wussy / The Fervor (Karate Body)
- 2011 – Funeral Dress II (Shake It)
- 2011 – Strawberry (Shake It)
- 2012 – Buckeye (Damnably)
- 2012 – Dangerous Highway 45″ – Heartless Bastards / Wussy (Shake It)
- 2013 – ..Popular Favorites (Download EP)
- 2014 – Attica! (Shake It / Damnably)
- 2015 – Public Domain, Vol. 1