Wizzard Sleeve is not for everyone. The vast majority of Hipsterslovakian provincials in remote outposts like, say, Brooklyn, aren’t hip enough, or, more to the point, they’re so hip, they’re unhip. Negative and/or condescendingly (“Can you believe these guys are from Alabama? That’s CRAZY!”) dismissive reviews of Wizzard Sleeve’s debut album, written in prose redolent of a subway’s stale flatulence by pompously embittered scribes exiled a little too long on that famed borough, tend to confirm this.
Fair enough. Move Along, O’ Blessed Hipster Trash. May your iPod shuffle always be filled with the stuff of Zach Braff indie-movie montages and Volkswagen commercials. May your Great Recession be little more than a soundtrack filled with We Were Promised Fanny Packs, The Pains of Peeing Pure Ass Sharts, and similar musical indie-ephemera. Enjoy how they’re now marketing minivans—once the sole province of the proverbial soccer mom—to your kind as something ironic and therefore a credible investment. Move Along, O’ Dandified Yokels: Wizzard Sleeve’s too real, and you’re not real enough.
No, this Wizzard Sleeve LP won’t be the first RIAA-certified Gold Album to hang in HoZac Records’ plush offices. Because, you know if the same kinds of people wished Crime would simply go away as they performed songs like “San Francisco’s Doomed,” you can guess how they feel about a band playing a song like “Alabama’s Doomed,” the first song on the Wizzard Sleeve record, Make The World Go Away. It was one thing to talk of cities being doomed in the 1970s, because, well, they were, by all accounts, doomed—but to now talk of entire states—and the proverbial sweet home Alabama, no less—as being doomed, well, cultured city life requires a healthy dose of denial (lest the murder rates, schools, gangs, crime, etc. wipes the smile off your face) to simply get through the day, and besides, look around, buddy, these city streets are safe for joggers and Carrie Bradshaw clones again, so no talk of how your state is doomed, please, because, haven’t you heard, there’s a new punk rock-themed sports bar down the street with twenty-five cent wings and iconic pictures of Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash hanging between the plasma screens and I can’t fucking wait to yelp about it to the high blogospheric heavens. Isn’t life delicious?!?
So as the coastal cities get too superficially cleaned up (in ways Dr. Rudy Giulliani, Vasectomies, would approve), clogged with trustafarians flooding the music scene with their shitty bands, the real grit and grime will come from the Rust Belt and deeper into the heartlands both Midwest and South [i]. (Where it always has, mind you.) (I mean, this obviously ain’t the first time a bunch of Alabama musicians had an album released by a Chicago label.). This is why a Pagans cover by Wizzard Sleeve sounds so… appropriate (done perfectly in a post-everything kind of style), and the Crime reference works, and why you won’t find their self-described genre “Confederate Glue Goth Tard Wave” on your iShuffle, and why songs with lyrics like “she’s crying all the time/she’s losing her mind/from the bottom of a rope/too fucked on dope…” (from the album’s fantastic closer, “No Mongo”) aren’t gonna make it with the urbane “cultured” Pitchfork crowd. (Furthermore, I suspect if Pitchfork’s still around in the year 2030, they’ll retroactively rate this record a 9.9 and act like they were down with it all along…) They’re Today, and Wizzard Sleeve is Tomorrow, and if your drugs aren’t giving you visions of pterodactyl meltdowns and high bugs, sorry about your luck.
So, yeah, it’s not an accessible sound per se, but maybe you’ll like it as much as some of us do. There’s a fine codeine-plod to this record. Perhaps if you took Replicas-era Gary Numan’s low-end synth-tones, replaced his Asperger’s Syndrome with an unhealthy dextrapamorphan-infused mind-numb and combined it with a droidish Reatardo Lost Sound caterwaul, you’d be getting closer to what Wizzard Sleeve’s all about. And if I’ve made it sound, so far, that you can’t, like, party, to this record, my bad. Because, for all its unselfconscious future-primitive despair, it’s not the maudlin self-centered despair of 4-track troubadours with a smoking bong and GarageBand to get them through the long dark dormroom night….. the only band I can think of who has mined similar bummer-themes and made it sound kinda, I dunno, celebratory (like, you can down a couple 4-Lokos and dance to it, no prob), is Flipper. It’s one thing to get the sound of Flipper, but to capture the transcendence of Flipper is something else entirely, and Wizzard Sleeve succeeds at this in ways so many have failed.
This album has been out for about a year now. If you enjoy any of the above bands referenced, plus modern-day practitioners of this kind of sound like Daily Void (with whom they recently toured, and the collage art cover of their album was done by DV guitarist/vocalist Christopher Ilth) and the bands on the phenomenal Detroit compilation Shiftless Decay, you really need to pick this up if you haven’t yet. [HoZac]
[i] Until, of course, the Eastern Seaboard’s waters get warm enough for their own Katrina.
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