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wetdog: frauhaus! (2009)
December 21, 2009, 9:24 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , ,

Frauhaus! ••••½

Late in the year, but following rather eagerly on the tails of their 2008 debut album Enterprise Reversal, Wetdog’s Frauhaus! is undoubtedly one the most fun, inventive and original albums of the year. The UK-based band, composed of Billy Easter on bass, Sarah Datblygu on drums and Rivka Gillieron on vocals and guitar, excel in creating atmospheric, erratic sounds with a jaunty disregard for anything mundane. They’ve enjoyed support slots for well respected bands both old and new, such as indie pin ups Vivian Girls and reggae-punk stalwarts The Slits, and their deal with Angular Recordings now sees the trio cementing their sound in a very successful second album.

Wetdog count a variety of top notch influences on Frauhaus!, citing Micachu, Syd Barrett and Euros Childs, with legendary graphic novel illustrator Robert Crumb and 1979 cult British horror flick ‘The Wicker Man’ also flagged, the latter’s flashing play between gentle pastoral and darker reveals most evident on the twittering bird song and thick, stop-start chords of ‘Trees Fall’. Though each of the album’s fourteen songs has a disjointed style and rhythm of its own, they bob and weave into each other with a connecting sense of joyful weirdness, darkly irreverent rather than pretentious; menacing at times, but in a deliriously fun way. Fabulously uncompromising, it’s futile to attempt any generic labelling here; Wetdog delight in merging styles, setting keyboard and guitar melodies clashing gloriously against stubborn basslines, beginning songs in one manner only to change all the rules come the chorus.

These helter-skelter tactics mean Frauhaus! has a kind of anarchic spontaneity to it, where the ground could shift at any moment. It’s an exciting atmosphere that evokes the tumultuous ethos of The Slits, made even more potent by the darker, Halloween-style motifs of The Need, that cover the corners of their songs with spiderwebs and vampire fangs. ‘Ethiopia’, for example, matches a tight, menacing repetitive bassline with duelling keyboard melodies, one sounding like Hammer Horror organs and the other oddly like the soundtrack to SNES-era MarioKart. Wetdog do delicate and abrasive with equal skill, and match up-tempo indie rhythms with more sludgy, alt timing. ‘Tidy Up Your Bedroom’ shrieks with psychobilly surf, crashing with spiky, B-movie horror staccato guitar and spoof organs, while the choppy, almost Britpop beats that introduce ‘That Man Delivers Papers’ skid into the sludgy, discordant pluckings of Primus-type noise with a dirty-kneed glee.

Forthcoming single and album opener ‘Lower Leg’ encapsulates the trio’s danger-spiked fun in a catchy tumble of hard kick drum and spinning hi-hat rhythms, while ‘Women’s Finals’ marks the midway point with an unrelenting, bass-heavy groove and eccentric, surrealist narrative. Gillieron’s tightly strung and finely plucked strings revel in jaunty off-notes, choosing atmosphere and style over reliance on FX or volume. And though Frauhaus! has a penchant for the playfully creepy, there are moments of sweetness too. The sunny, melodic garage of ‘Trehorne Beach Song’ is decidedly lovely and the dreamy vocal harmonies of ‘Round Vox’ are to die for. The end of the album slows down, losing the catchy hooks and riffs, and the slowly serrated, Babes In Toyland chords of ‘Long Long Time Ago’ give way to the dismal keyboard wails of ‘New Year’, dissolving slowly into the ground like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews
UK release date: 30/11/09; www.myspace.com/wetdogthebest


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