Wussy - Buckeye
"Best of" albums are a celebration of years of hard work, best left to the veterans of the music business. They're an exhibition of the most beautiful creations from a band and they can act as a portfolio demonstrating what they've achieved and what they can achieve in the future. Now, eleven years in, and seven years since their debut album, Ohio indie-rock band Wussy have decided to venture into the world of "best of" albums, and have put together the 17 track Buckeye.
Wussy are well known for their shabby yet enjoyable sound, both on recording and live. It's no surprise, then, that the best of their best tracks are the ones that have an untidily emotional quality to them. From the beginning, the band's songwriting ability is apparent, with the strained-sounding vocals on second track 'Airborne' crying out "it's clear that I adore you/I didn't mean to bore you." 'Airborne' is one of the highlights of the entire collection, with every other rock-style drum beat acting as a pang of heartbreak. The contrast between the voices of vocalists Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker adds interest in an Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros way, whilst their imperfect, stumbling vocals only add to the raw beauty of this track.
As the album continues, the trend that Wussy's most heartfelt songs are also their most appealing lingers. 'Pulverized' is, as the title suggests, angry and atmospheric, interspersed with electric guitar riffs and heaps of attitude. It evolves into the delicate 'Vivian Girls' with its gentle xylophone chimes and intimate, whispering vocals. These tracks are on either end of the spectrum of Buckeye but their juxtaposition demonstrates the range of moods that Wussy are able to create. Other highlights include 'Death By Misadventure', a slightly too-polite nod to broken relationships. Here, it sounds like the vocalists were enthusiastically throwing words at an acoustic guitar and hoping for the best, and it is this recorded-in-one-take quality that suits Wussy the most.
However, throughout the album there are tracks that sit, emotionless, in which the band's use of guitars are too tame and too similar, and you can't help wishing that they would just let go. 'Pizza King' begins in a promising way with Lisa Walker's Joan Jett vocals, but soon deflates into a hesitant track that is limply suspended between 70s rock band and a Beach House style song. Again, with 'Funeral Dress', the eleventh track on the album, the mid-tempo drums in its introduction sound full of anticipation, but as the song plods on the listener is left with an increasing sense of frustration.
This showcase of the best tracks from Wussy has its moments of glory, like in 'Grand Champion Steer', the Springsteen style shout-along, or in the longing tones of 'Motorcycle'. However, although the album is far from unpleasant to listen to, for every great moment on this album, there is a repetitive and occasionally quite bland couple of minutes. Buckeye is just hesitating on the border between mediocrity and brilliance, and there's feeling that they could have made it, if only they had slightly braver.