Best band you haven’t heard? Wussy, the Cincinnati quintet that rocked The Low Beat on Monday.
Happy facing a healthy weeknight crowd, they played 70 raw and raucous minutes, bravely introducing new songs from “Attica,” their eighth album due this summer, and rummaging in their catalog. They charged right into the new with “Teenage Wasteland” in a cacophonous guitar blast from frontpeople Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker, with blistering pedal steel noise from John Erhardt. “Pulverized” followed, Cleaver bellowing, “Love is stronger than dirt” as Walker chanted staccato “yeah-yeah!” bursts. Once a couple (Still? Again?), they rocked with candor, writ loud, about agonizing breakups, exultant reconciliations, ambiguous futures.
His voice, like a dump truck, roared big and carried a lot; hers had great grace and grit. They shouldn’t have matched, but they did, and it took lots of vocal power to stand up to the guitar squall that rode on drummer Joe Klug and Mark Messerly’s 4/4 stomp.
Older tunes “Maglite” and “Death By Misadventure” set up the huge new guitar cataclysm “Bug,” while “Pizza King” and “Mountain of Tires” sketched the bleakness of Walker’s hometown. New ones “Acetylene” and “Rainbows & Butterflies” felt like hit radio lamentations and professions of love and desire, respectively, just as “Funeral Dress” and “Yellow Cotton Dress” lunged to opposite poles. The country-ish new “Beautiful” begged forgiveness, but withheld it.
Before the show, Cleaver said the name Wussy came from insults suffered as a kid, explaining he hadn’t reached his full imposing size until 11th grade. He wanted to reclaim the word, and liked how it looks on T-shirts.
As writers, he and Walker hold nothing back, claiming their entire emotional history. Sonically, Wussy charges ahead with the same wild courage; making some of the smartest, deceptively simple-sounding rock around, full of counter-melodies, the melding of syllables with beats and that loose, raw feel that only bands with total emotional unity, and plenty of practice, can attain.
It was ferocious, uncompromising, exhilarating.
Immaculate Hearts opened; four College of St. Rose music students whose ambitions matched their skills. Singer-guitarist Brandon Powers-Green’s songs changed up restlessly, challenging the crowd with quiet introspection, then revving into bigger, chamber-rock structures.
They knew their tunes were too quiet for a rock ’n’ roll bar, but bravely laid it down anyway, getting over with earnestness and sonic novelties, swapping instruments, bowing a xylophone, playing in contrasting waves.
In a better world, Wussy might play bigger places, for bigger paydays. But even in a cozy bar on a cold Albany Monday, they unpacked a full load of high impact — and complicated — rock ’n’ roll joy.