Wednesday — Rat Saw God
Imagine a version of HBO’s Euphoria in which the parents are living check-to-check, the drugs are cheap and sketchy, and no one has the wherewithal to put on an absurdly elaborate school play. Now switch out that impossibly hip playlist for a bucketful of fuzzed-out guitars, occasional gorgeous pedal steel and seemingly off-the-cuff observations of this whole beautiful mess, and you’ve got the latest album from Asheville-based Wednesday. Rat Saw God is a loud look at the lives lived by the kids who actually populate those mythologized small towns you see on prestige TV (or, for that matter, hear about on country radio).
Rat Saw God kicks off with a high-test power mower of a song (“Hot Rotten Grass Smell”) about what remains after an unexpected departure – “Your closet froze after you left/Except the people who took your shirts” – before launching into the album’s first single. “Bull Believer” is quite/loud/LOUDER epic about the folks (barely) still living – “A corpse with a spirit/Got out of my bed today” – while mourning those who found a macabre way out – “Poured one out for all my guys/The tiny monuments get propped up on the roadside” – before devolving into two-plus minutes of outright wailing from singer-songwriter Karly Hartzman overtop what must be half the guitars in Western North Carolina.
Oddly sweet moments are sprinkled around Rat Saw God. “Formula One” is a hazy reverie – “I like sleepin’ with the lights on/You next to me watching Formula One” which rides on Xandy Clelmis’ languid pedal steel line and plaintive harmonies from MJ Lenderman (who had his own triumph with last year’s Boat Songs). Slow burner “Bath County” is a road trip full of low-key, random chaos with a screamed epitaph of sorts – “You’ll be my baby ‘til my body’s in the ground.” And even the “bitter old lady” in “Quarry” has a moment of, well, less bitterness – “She says ‘America’s a spoiled child/That’s ignorant of grief’/But then she gives out full-size candy bars on Halloween.” “Bath County ” also references Drive-By Truckers, an avowed favorite of Hartzman and company. If you’ve wondered what could’ve happened had DBT predecessor Adam’s House Cat continued down its own grungy path, Wednesday might just be your answer.
Even in the most droning suburban dystopia, though, there are moments that remind you that you might still have something like a soul. On Rat Saw God, that moment is “Chosen to Deserve.” Full of anthemic guitars and big, fat pedal steel riffs, the song leads with one of the best opening lines you’ll ever hear – “We always started by tellin’ all our best stories first/So now that it’s been a while I’ll get around/To tellin’ you all my worst.” It’s an invitation that would give anyone pause, but Hartzman won’t allow you time to think about it, unapologetically cataloging all of her f@ck-ups. The message of the song, essentially – here’s a list of my sh!t, glad you’re here for it, hoping you’ll stay. For a song like this alone, she’s a keeper.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Chosen to Deserve” – I know we’re barely into April, but I can’t imagine a 2023 in which a better song is released.
Rat Saw God was produced, mixed and engineered by Alex Farrar and mastered by Huntley Miller. Wednesday is Karly Hartzman (guitar and vocals), MJ Lenderman (guitar and back-up vocals), Xandy Chelmis (lap steel), Margo Schultz (bass) and Alan Miller (drums).
Go here to order Rat Saw God (out April 7): https://merch.ambientinks.com/collections/wednesday
Check out tour dates here: https://www.wednesday.band/