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CD Review: Wussy - 'Wussy'

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Friday, June 12, 2009

WUSSY

"Wussy"

Kindred Spirits: Yo La Tengo, Neil Young, R.E.M.

Show: Monday at the Red and the Black. Show starts at 9 p.m. 202-399-3201. http://www.redandblackbar.com.

Raucous guitars don't equal high spirits on Wussy's self-titled third album, another set of dispatches from a turbulent relationship. Singer-guitarists Lisa Walker and Chuck Cleaver are partners in life as well as in music, and the Cincinnati quartet's songs document the pair's tensions. "Well, honey, you're the pain and the antidote," sings Walker in "Gone Missing," which is one of the nicer things the lovebirds coo to each other.

Back in the '90s, Cleaver was a member of Ass Ponys, whose downstate-Ohio folk-rock encompassed country twang and punky clamor. Wussy's style is similar, but Walker adds sonic and thematic variety. The lyrics are divided between the two singers. That makes the album a sort of a dialogue -- or perhaps a couples therapy session. "Some call this living, but I call this living a lie," grumbles Cleaver in "Dreadful Sorry," a country-metal waltz. "Is this a late show or a fist fight?" responds Walker in "Maglite," a '60s-style rock-and-roller with '80s grunge.

"Wussy" is intentionally loose and rough-edged. Yet the melodies are solid, and the harmonies pretty. The guitars sometimes switch from craggy to chiming, notably on "Magic Words," and multi-instrumentalist Mark Messerly adds a playful sideshow-organ riff to "Scream & Scream Again." Such touches prove that Wussy is having fun, even when the lyrics suggest otherwise.

-- Mark Jenkins


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