Wetdog Frauhaus! Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

A still-new band with a ragged niche all to themselves.

Mike Diver 2009

Wetdog are all scratch and sniff: guitars antagonising ear canals like itchy cuffs on pale skin, a stink like old liquor on joss sticks and the must that grows on jeans unwashed for a whole tour. The trio – from London but not, operating outside of contemporary convention by not playing EC1 dives thrice a week – released their debut long-player not 18 months ago, Enterprise Reversal lighting up the listening gear of a select few in the summer of 2008. Here, they deliver a sequel as successor, less a follow-up and more an outright usurper from the underworld.

Frauhaus! is an immediately perplexing offering, a record that reaches out of the murk to grab the listener tight. The three of Rivka Gillieron, Sarah Datblygu and Billy Easter concoct from readily available materials macabre-of-mood works, threat laced and menace weaved, chinks in the darkness identifiable by the chirrup of a bird here or a oddly jaunty bassline there. Not that it’s an evil listen – it’s too focused on its own sense of humour, however detached from the norm, for that. But it is a curiously creepy affair, guitars spying on proceedings from the open eyeholes of dusty portraits and vocals gnawing like rats caught in a cavity wall.

The record’s lo-fi feel and boldness of arrangement – Night Comes Down is neither indie nor rock, despite its categorising on this website – shares common ground with Micachu and the Shapes; unlike Jewellery’s sure-footed explorations, though, this expedition is one where the turf beneath could well erupt with grasping, claw-like hands at any moment. Ethiopia’s clattering and wailing is about as far removed from one’s perception of what music from the Horn of Africa might sound like, all weirdness and cheapo keyboard squeals; Wymmin's Final and Lower Leg play with straighter bats – the winged kind, of course – but undulating bass work threatens to overturn the smooth running of each. Progress from A to B is always influenced by a mysterious C.

There’s lineage to recognise – from The Birthday Party to this year’s album from The Horrors, Primary Colours – but Wetdog are in a rare position: they’re a still-new band with a ragged niche all to themselves. Think a vampiric Vivian Girls, Raincoats caught in a shower of blood, Huggy Bear haunted by night terrors; and then throw in some slapstick laughs. Voila: something can’t-look-away eccentric that’ll dumbfound and delight in equally malevolent measures.

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