Grown Up All Right


“Teenage Wasteland”, the first track on Wussy’s fifth proper album, Attica!, is literally a “Baba O’Riley” shoutout that was dog-eared as “Paul Westerberg” during production and begins with an English translation of "Husker Du". That's like getting your three favorite flavors of ice cream in one bowl. Townshend’s by-now-overfamiliar story of alienation was meant to be resolved by a rock concert that merged the dispirited youth into an harmonious whole. As if. In “Teenage Wasteland”, lyricist Lisa Walker goes back in time to make herself one of those kids, explaining how her young self identified with Pete Townshend as a fellow traveller (“Your misery sounds so much like ours so far away”) via the hoary Who warhorse. Maybe it wasn’t “Baba O” for you (for me, it was hearing “Unsatisfied” live at a pre-Let It Be Replacements show). But Walker conjures that young-adult moment when you discover (falsely, like a lot of young adultitudes) that the one thing we all have in common is misery better than, oh, Anne Tyler does in her pre-Breathing Lessons short story “Teenage Wasteland”. Gimme Eudora Welty, who is listening to Attica! on her heavenly EarPods as we speak.

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Two kids who made love for the first time in a sleeping bag after getting stoned to Who’s Next grow up. Townshend’s aspirational spirit-melding concert never happens for them—maybe it got cancelled for some reason, or the ticket price was too steep. Their memories are just reminders of promises that never came to fruition, their isolation unremitting and hopeless. The protagonist of “Acetylene”, sung and written by Walker’s co-lead and ex-Ass Pony Chuck Cleaver, urges his partner to turn on him, whether in love or violence or both is unclear, in a sea of fire.

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Somewhere in between the half-remembered jouissance of “Teenage Wasteland” and the doomed outsiderism of “Acetylene” lies the heart and soul of Attica! and maybe Wussy themselves. Musical lifers willing to follow the Afghan Whigs around in a van for $500 paydays, as they did in 2012, and keeping decidedly non-R’n’R day jobs because that’s also what they’re good at, the running critical narrative for Wussy is “How come more people haven’t heard about Wussy?”, assuming the theoretical critic has actually heard of the band.

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If you are one of the converted, then you’ll take my word that Attica! is the document of a steadfast band continuing to refresh itself, adding simple celestial piano flourishes to tie together their short-stories-set-to-music thematically, enough rancor and pummel to accompany life’s brutal truth, and a shot of WTF to keep the album from being a gloom-fest: The rousingly polyphonic “To The Lightning” interjects “Salvation is near/Job’s sisters meet here”, which at the end of the day might be the band’s calling card, conflating redemption and fatalism in a way that rings just true.

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If you are not one of the converted, note that I just used “pummel” as a noun. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Joe Klug. The drums on the finale “Beautiful” are foundational. Joe Klug is to Wussy as Neil Peart is to Rush.

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I’m not really sure what “Attica!” refers to. A part of Greece, or a race riot, or some city in New York State that I’d have to search for on Google Maps. What if it’s just that it sounds cool? Call it love.