Wussy - Teenage wasteland (Damnably Records, from the album Attica)
A couple of years ago, I heard Wussy for the first time and fell in love with them, when Damnably Records compiled the best moments from their career to that point on the Strawberry album (they were about 10 years in or so at the time, with four albums under their belts). (Here's the link for that 2012 round-up.) This song is taken from their 5th album, Attica, which came out last May.
Of course, 'Teenage wasteland' was also a song by The Who a few decades ago. The Wussy vintage takes that shimmering guitar part of the Who song as a kind of starting point, and proceeds to "answer" from the perspective of a middle American who grew up with The Who.
That would be Lisa Walker in this case, one of the band's joint vocalists and songwriters along with Chuck Cleaver. What she makes out of this dynamic is a moving paean to the power of rock n roll to cross oceans and affect lives. It's wonderfully heartfelt, personal, delivered in one chord more or less. You might even say epic, but with a small e if you follow me, compared to the very much capital E of The Who.
"yeah we heard you Pete, real loud and clear on the last one
and we were pulling for you a 1000 times a day
it don't take much to sound like a sleeping prophet
when your misery sounds so much like ours
so far away, so far away"
That reads great doesn't it? There's a real gritty poetic quality to it - like "sleeping prophet". And here's Walker's comment on The Who and what they meant to her and her generation growing up.
That band changed many lives of farm and rust belt kids here in America who closely identified with such a bombastic blue collar band. Very different from Stones and Beatles type bands. Regular guys. A band for the unpopular kids. Kind of a precursor to the ethos that underground bands in the US began to embrace in the 80s.
It's interesting to put the two songs side by side and treat them as a call and response.
Here's the blurb on the album from Damnably Records.
Attica! is the 5th album from Cincinnati’s Wussy, and the first to be released in the UK following the 2012 compilation Buckeye. These 11 new tracks were recorded at John Curley’s (Afghan Whigs) Ultrasuede Studios, and mastered by Dave Davis at QCA, both of Cincinnati, Ohio. 2012 marked the first excursion outside of the US for Wussy’s Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker, and Attica! is partly drawn from their experiences. Former Ass Ponys guitarist John Erhardt joins the band as a fifth member on pedal steel, and the album as a whole sees Wussy incorporate new instrumentation including piano, organ, harmonium, synth, mellotron and e-bow. This, together with guests on cello & theremin, adds a greater range and depth to their sound.
This is a live performance of the song for Cincinnatti magazine. It's really good with a slightly rawer feel.
Here are a couple of other great cuts from the album, plus the whole thing on bandcamp underneath. 'To the lightning' in particular has some great counter vocals by Cleaver and Walker - something of a signature style for them. And that lap steel guitar on 'Halloween'. Yes. They're a great fuckin band who speak to the lives of ordinary people in all their dirty and beautiful detail.