With sixth proper album Forever Sounds, Wussy continues its shift from its early countryish rock leanings. A band once concerned with clean, catchy songwriting now delivers a record invested in atmospheres and textures. The movement makes sense following the experiments of 2014’s Attica! and in a career spent touching on different genres. Getting rid of traditional pedal steel tones makes as much sense as using them, and Wussy merely find new ways to be impressive.
“Dropping Houses”, as an album opener and advance single, defines the change immediately. The band’s talked about this track revealing their shoegaze influences and while that comes across—and much of the album owes something to the sonics of, say, a more intelligible My Bloody Valentine—it touches on Radiohead as well (particularly in its bass line), unremoved from the 1990s indie landscape. Lisa Walker sings, “I’m not dropping houses on you now,” marking a change that suggests we’re not in Kan—yeah, yeah.
“Hand of God” provides a similar aesthetic of its more gritty than shiny sonic wall while pushing through breathy, occasionally frightening musings on its titular topic. It’s a trip from a “righteous arm” to a hand that can “strike you down” or “keep you warm”. There’s comfort and punishment in the Old Testament complexities, and guitars and backing vocals swirl around Walker’s lead. If there’s revelation here, it’s uncertain in its content and its meaning, but well defined in its experiential qualities.
While the musical approach might be the most striking part of the album, Wussy wouldn’t be Wussy if Walker and Chuck Cleaver weren’t still writing such strong songs. These recordings might be less melodic than what the band has given us in the past, but they’re no less attentive. The grungey “She’s Killed Hundreds” might be about someone’s recent death, or it might be about the afterlife, it might be about discovering the sky’s “some kind of blue again”, but it’s constantly unsettling in its emotional forays.
“Donny’s Death Scene” continues the morbid meditations and the suggestion that the album’s title refers to thoughts of the eternal rather than the persistence of what we hear (or the brief sentence in which “sounds” is the verb). It’s an ode to an early death and if it’s based on The Big Lebowski’s, it’s out of place in its effectiveness. There’s depth and scope here that’s hard-hitting and best removed from thoughts of ashes being poorly scattered. Alternately, maybe it’s a necessary track in a world where ashes blow in your face and funeral speakers say ill-thought words and we too often have to look for a proper soundtrack to unfortunate death.
The more rocking “Hello, I’m a Ghost” might fit with those thoughts, but it sits well with earlier Wussy songwriting with its fuzzy hook and Cleaver’s observations. “As of now you’ve undressed seven hundred more times and I’ve missed every one,” captures loss with a calmness, letting emotion be pushed aside in the face of, well, having to face emotions. If Cleaver “can be any damn thing that I want” and chooses, “Hello, I’m a Ghost” there’s an unwillingness to launch, and yet a strange reward in the self-realization.
It’s a fun song to hear, yet not exactly simple to process. For a band that writes good tunes and precise lyrics, Wussy doesn’t give us anything that comes easy (this is a band, after all, whose best song exuberantly lies to itself and denies love in “Airborne”). Forever Sounds is no different in that respect, even if it marks a change in some others.