CD release parties by Wussy and The Chocolate Horse

After hearty nationwide critical acclaim for the debut album, Funeral Dress, local Rock foursome Wussy is gearing up for its sophomore release, Left for Dead. The album is due in stores nationally

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The Chocolate Horse host a CD release party Saturday at the Southgate House.



After hearty nationwide critical acclaim for the debut album, Funeral Dress, local Rock foursome Wussy is gearing up for its sophomore release, Left for Dead. The album is due in stores nationally on Aug. 28, but the band is giving its hometown fans first dibs, with copies available this Friday at the official release show at Northside Tavern. Culture Queer and My Wife the Tiger open.

If critics went ga-ga over Funeral Dress, wait 'til they get a load of Left for Dead. While Funeral Dress had an endearing "ragged glory" element to it, Dead is much more focused and better produced. While Funeral Dress had some fantastic songs on it, the band members still somewhat sounded like they were getting to know how to play with each other. I overheard someone a few months ago say, "Wussy would be great if they gave a shit," suggesting that the last record was too slackerly. Left for Dead doesn't have that issue — while still featuring plenty of "bash it out" moments, all of the elements of the band shine through and even the songwriting is more advanced and ear-grabbing.

Lisa Walker dominates the album, at least from a vocal standpoint. Her fantastically fragile/don't-fuck-with-me vocals are the heart of the record, as fellow singer/guitarist Chuck Cleaver seems content with singing lead on only a couple of songs, providing switch-off and harmony support on the rest.

Utility man Mark Messerly once again shines bright, providing burly bass lines, tasteful keyboards, accordion, mandolin and whatever else is at arm's reach. And Dawn Burman has emerged as an airtight drummer, bringing a Ringo-like grace and simplicity to her precise rhythms. The guitar tones of Walker and Cleaver also stand out — the jingle-jangle and arpeggio churns are still there, but there are some great fuzzed-out, angular and Garage-y sounds present as well.

A sense of sadness prevails in the clever, poetic and poignant lyrics, as most every song seems to deal with heartbreak and love sickness. But the drive of songs like "Rigor Mortis," "What's His Name" (which has the feel of Devo's "Mongoloid") and "Killer Trees" oozes primal scream catharsis. Meanwhile, tracks like "Tiny Spiders" are more mid-tempo contemplation than rock-it-all-away firestorm, sprinkled with shards of guitar harmonics that create hovering atmospherics. Speaking of hovering, closer "Vivian Girls" is the sparsest track on the album, featuring tattered guitar, chiming bells and Walker's cracking, honest vocal. No matter what the presentation, Wussy has gotten much better not only as a group, but also as superlative conveyors of pure emotion through song.

Cleaver and Walker's voices couldn't be more different, but because they're both singular instruments in their own right, together they create an engrossing duality. That holds true for Wussy as a whole — it seems to be a collection of misfit players and sounds that, when brought together, create something gorgeous and magnetic. Sophomore slump? Not by any standards. (

The Chocolate Horse host a CD release party Saturday at the Southgate House.



After hearty nationwide critical acclaim for the debut album, Funeral Dress, local Rock foursome Wussy is gearing up for its sophomore release, Left for Dead. The album is due in stores nationally on Aug. 28, but the band is giving its hometown fans first dibs, with copies available this Friday at the official release show at Northside Tavern. Culture Queer and My Wife the Tiger open.

If critics went ga-ga over Funeral Dress, wait 'til they get a load of Left for Dead. While Funeral Dress had an endearing "ragged glory" element to it, Dead is much more focused and better produced. While Funeral Dress had some fantastic songs on it, the band members still somewhat sounded like they were getting to know how to play with each other. I overheard someone a few months ago say, "Wussy would be great if they gave a shit," suggesting that the last record was too slackerly. Left for Dead doesn't have that issue — while still featuring plenty of "bash it out" moments, all of the elements of the band shine through and even the songwriting is more advanced and ear-grabbing.

Lisa Walker dominates the album, at least from a vocal standpoint. Her fantastically fragile/don't-fuck-with-me vocals are the heart of the record, as fellow singer/guitarist Chuck Cleaver seems content with singing lead on only a couple of songs, providing switch-off and harmony support on the rest.

Utility man Mark Messerly once again shines bright, providing burly bass lines, tasteful keyboards, accordion, mandolin and whatever else is at arm's reach. And Dawn Burman has emerged as an airtight drummer, bringing a Ringo-like grace and simplicity to her precise rhythms. The guitar tones of Walker and Cleaver also stand out — the jingle-jangle and arpeggio churns are still there, but there are some great fuzzed-out, angular and Garage-y sounds present as well.

A sense of sadness prevails in the clever, poetic and poignant lyrics, as most every song seems to deal with heartbreak and love sickness. But the drive of songs like "Rigor Mortis," "What's His Name" (which has the feel of Devo's "Mongoloid") and "Killer Trees" oozes primal scream catharsis. Meanwhile, tracks like "Tiny Spiders" are more mid-tempo contemplation than rock-it-all-away firestorm, sprinkled with shards of guitar harmonics that create hovering atmospherics. Speaking of hovering, closer "Vivian Girls" is the sparsest track on the album, featuring tattered guitar, chiming bells and Walker's cracking, honest vocal. No matter what the presentation, Wussy has gotten much better not only as a group, but also as superlative conveyors of pure emotion through song.

Cleaver and Walker's voices couldn't be more different, but because they're both singular instruments in their own right, together they create an engrossing duality. That holds true for Wussy as a whole — it seems to be a collection of misfit players and sounds that, when brought together, create something gorgeous and magnetic. Sophomore slump? Not by any standards. (wussymusic.com)

The Vinyl Horse
For those who grew up listening to music on those big, black, round things (we called them "records"), it's a bit odd to think that vinyl is now something that needs to be explained like a museum piece. A tour guide will announce, "In the early 20th century, man invented clunky, large discs made of black vinyl as a means to listen to recorded music," in much the same way they talk about cavemen and their silly practice of making fire with two sticks.

Local trio The Chocolate Horse is one of those entities fighting to keep vinyl in the public's consciousness. This Saturday, the group hosts the release party for Patience Works!, its debut release which is initially coming out in a limited-edition vinyl package (done as much for the art possibilities as the sonic ones), and also includes a CD version for the phonograph-deficient. The show at the Southgate House also features Kelli Shay (from Nashville), Matthew Shelton (see Locals Only here) and The Hiders.

It's tempting/easy to compare this project to Readymaid, the great band CH members Jason Snell (vocals, guitar, etc.) and Andrew Higley (French horn, saw, keys, etc.) were in a few years back. But, while Higley's unpredictable ornamentation and Snell's amazing voice remain, there is a sparseness and singular sonic presentation on Patience. With an old drum machine and minimal acoustic and unaffected guitars on most tracks, this record would come off like a demo in many others' hands. But Snell, Higley and third Horse Paul Brumm turn these short, compact songs into something transcendent. Each note is audible and crisp and the band fills the space around Snell's bruised, moving melodies with odd but tasteful sound effects — the saw-and-bow creates a particularly intriguing, Theramin-like sound that adds an eerie element and Higley's egg-shaped French horn riffs add a melancholy elegance to the album's warm, inviting feel.

Great songs with just the right amount of experimentation surrounding them makes for an amazing album in my book. Patience Works! is just that. (thechocolatehorse.com)



CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen(at)citybeat.com

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