Wombo: Fairy Rust (Album Review)

Wombo’s Single “Dreamsicles” Dropped From Last Year’s EP Mount Keesh has received a lot of attention since its release, racking up around three-quarters of a million plays on Spotify. No mean feat for an indie rock band, this moody track showcases the Louisville, Kentucky trio’s best qualities – sadness, loudness and simplicity. Hoping to expand on the success of that single, the band released their full sequel Rust Fairy on Fire Talk, the Brooklyn-based indie label that already boasts successful Dehd and Cola releases this year.

Wombo is looking to get noticed with a charming 1990s-inspired rock guitar collection that draws inspiration from the best parts of post-punk, indie-pop and gothic. Of all the bands making a 1990s resurgence right now – most of whom never lived through the decade – Wombo are one of the most notable bands to follow the trend. Understated and candid, Wombo’s effort seems far from contrived or forced. Something that seems impossible since they too were barely in the belly at the peak of their influences.

On the edgy trail opener “Snakey,” Chadwick pinches a simple, punchy rising bassline that goes up and up the stairs. Tambourine and drums enter shortly before his voice enters, singing cryptic lyrics over a slippery character. The guitar punctuates the form with noise; another quirky guitar melody lingers beneath the vocals. The song is pretty much an extended vamp, and it ends quickly after it starts. The structure is surprisingly simple and understated yet artistic, and that’s fine.

Sydney Chadwick (bass/vocals), Cameron Lowe (guitar) and Joel Taylor (drums) have reduced their sound since the band’s first release. Look at the treesin 2017. Safe for the experimental tendencies of this and previous albumsRust Fairy find that the group settles comfortably into specific roles. The bass usually provides the framework for the song with a melodic bassline a la Peter Hook while the drums lock into a repeating pattern. Between Chadwick’s slowly rolling vocals, the guitarist plays contrasting melodies high on the frets, sometimes fighting the guitar and summoning noise instead.

“Sour Sun” begins with a funky breakbeat that brings an equally funky bass riff. The chorus provides welcome variation, and Chadwick’s charming voice shines with lovely melody – it’s a lively number but still carries the tinge of melancholy. The more punky “Backflip” lifts the energy even further – the fuzzy bass adds grit while the propelling drums build with the dissonant guitar notes. As you would expect from the simple structures of the band’s songs, the suspense leads nowhere. It’s pent up energy with nowhere to go. Sit with him instead.

The band’s songs may sound stereotypical. Their arrangements aren’t complex, which can leave listeners wanting more – some type of climax, anti-climax, exit or resolution, anything to wrap up the song and give it a sense of finality. On its own, that would make for a confusing listen, but in the context of Wombo and their approach, the rough, skeletal structures provide the volatility that gives Wombo its charm. Wombo’s songwriting abounds. In fact, brevity and simplicity are refreshing and organic – surprising qualities for unsurprising shapes.

Wombo creates their dark moods by channeling the best qualities of some of the biggest and most influential acts of the 20th century. Melodic basslines and speaking vocals hark back to post-punk pioneers Joy Division while sparkling guitar work pays homage to 1990s indie rock idols, the Pixies. Some of the dark, minor keys synced to programmed beats and pop vocal melodies allude to the Cure’s radio accessibility. Wombo wants you to brood over those moody moods.

A tough approach to the voice sometimes seems like the right decision. But Chadwick’s unassuming vocals hold the songs together. Her lyrics tend to unfold slowly in long, drawn-out vowels, resembling a less bubbly but equally depressed Greta Kline with her melodic choices. The melodies that Chadwick discovers as part of the rhythm section are infectious and linger long after the track’s two- to three-minute durations. His vocals help make Wombo accessible to listeners who might not particularly appreciate punk’s aggressive approach.

On rustic fairyyou won’t find anything flashy, and yet Wombo manages to exceed the expectations of their previous Mount Keesh EP, delivering something simple yet moving. The band found a formula that works for them, and here they are refining it. Their melodies and introspective moods will seduce you. If they haven’t already been added to the radar of relevant bands mining the 1990s for inspiration – Horse Girl, Mamma, Soccer Mommy –rustic fairy proves that Wombo is worthy of attention and status.

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