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Friday, September 05, 2008

CD Review: Wetnurse - Invisible City

Wetnurse - Invisible City
2008 Seventh Rule Recordings
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Refused quit long ahead of their time, yet in leaving behind a transitional breed of punk and hardcore hedged from Botch and Today is the Day, Refused made the statement of the nineties simply in title with their farewell prophecy album The Shape of Punk to Come. Of course, before them, Steve Austin had almost single-handedly laid out the imprints for manic, screech-filled hardcore that grabbed Greg Ginn riffs and the entire Black Flag ethos of angst and paid the whole thing forward with distortion-laced masterworks such as Today is the Day's self-titled album and Willpower.

What Refused ran to the bottom of an American backwoods basement and nearly left for dead in their final hurrah has been picked up like a fallen baton by many hardcore revisionists, most of whom get the Ginn/Austin principles and fine-tune them to their own advantage. While some projects have failed to capture the blistering magic of their heroes or have outright had their hardcore hybrids blow up in their well-intentioned faces, there have been plenty who have successfully paid the style forward in their own right, while the splintered sage himself Steve Austin continues to operate, having released Today is the Day's Axis of Eden last year, as well as his brilliant side project Tai-Pan.

Blaring like the electric steel whines of a downtown subway train bypassing the Staten Island Ferry dropoff and running straight for a midnight run to Brooklyn is New York's Wetnurse. At times bearing the frolicking sound of a fuzzbombed joyride on their full-length debut album Invisible City while most of the time pushing themselves to their sonic limits, Wetnurse has created one hell of an audile urban sprawl bearing outrage as well as tempered purpose.

Wetnurse's bold and intricate songs scream tantrums in addled time signature swaps, using "Not Your Choice" as an example, or the schizophrenic exchange between a shaky state of calm and melodic, beat-driven hysterics on "Life at Stake," one of the trickiest songs you'll ever hear that hijacks everything from Isis to Botch to Days of the New (check out that isolated acoustic finale on this sucker).

You don't even need to see a live action picture of Gene Fowler to see the cordons of his neck popping beneath the flesh as he roars, grunts, squeals and delivers a massive array of wailing projections, while his rhythm section of Greg Kramer, Garett Bussanick and Curran Reynolds raise him to his capacity with interchanging grooves filled with mathematic insanity for a few bars then settling into jacked-up rawk measures. "Missing Lion Returns" yields raw guitar fills that jettison into a futuristic cyberpunk sound, thus expect to be dazzled by Wetnurse one second, throttled stupidly another then subsequently prompted to pump and pogo, all in the blink of an eye and a tweak of the ear. Let's not forget to mention the vocal accompaniment of Stephanie Gravelle, who provides a soothing delicacy atop the pounding mayhem and harnessed chaos. Also worth mentioning is the impressive swaying jam session of "Slow Your Spell, Miss Hell," worth all 12 minutes of the ride.

Wetnurse may grab you upon first listen or they might take a spin or two to figure them out, but by all means give this band your ear. Invisible City is intelligently written yet still fierce and grimy beneath the clamoring artistry. Though Refused left us after issuing their decree of impending cacophony, a newly crowded 'core scene bears witness to the prediction with its constituents elbowing each other to live up to Refused's edict. A band like Wetnurse edifies said proverbial shape of punk to come, and they show off some metallic fang, to boot. Highly recommended...

Rating: ****1/2


Anonymous said...


Heads up to all.. the limited 2xLP version of this release is now available for mail order...
Strictly from Seventh Rule, a 2xLP Gatefold, 200 copies on Lime Green opaque / Black splatter.


Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

good tip for the vinyl heads

The Mule said...

A fantastic album, and good to see it get some coverage on TMM. Some might consider Invisible City to be their second full-length album. Their 37-minute debut record is worth chasing down as well.