This is a review of "Soap" recorded by The Wednesday Club. The review was written by Jessica Thornsby in 2009.
The first thing you'll notice about The Wednesday Club's 'Soap' album is its daunting length (twenty two songs, to be exact), and the second is the nonsensical song titles. Each track not only has a main title, but a bracketed sub-title. It all seems very arty and inscrutable - and, basically, it is.
Over the course of twenty two tracks, several themes emerge. The first is an indie-rock, The White Stripes-style angularness, seen in songs such as '(David) Pole' and 'Towering Outlook (Mourning The Korma).' Opening with a baffling voiceover (something about metal alchemists and pig Latin) and signing off with an unsettling chant of "he's in the corner, she's in the corner, you're in the corner," 'Towering Outlook' is hardly your run-of-the-mill indie hit. However, it does feature some springy, indie-meets-country chords and an angular bounce that'll put you in mind of The White Stripe's alt-indie tune 'Little Ghost.'
Another strong, distinctly White Stripes-sounding track is 'Saturday's Curse (Virginia Vs. The Triangle).' 'Soap' is a very roughly produced album, but the great thing about this track, is that it uses this to its advantage, further distorting the vocals and guitars to create a heady fug of sound.
But, the definitive album highlight has to be 'Vocabulary Sandwich (Arkless).' Twitchy drumbeats, brooding chords, and gasped backing vocals all interlock in a polished and professional piece of black-hearted indie-rock. This is the only track on this monumental twenty two track effort where you can hear their frontman clearly. Even better, this newfound clarity reveals some quirky lyrics.
'Dream Councillor (Three Cathedrals)' closely follows in the footsteps of 'Saturday's Curse...' '(David)...' and 'Vocabulary Sandwich...' with a crackly, indie-rock combo of buzzy guitars and angular drumbeats. However, the vague, indecipherable vocals rob this song of any lyrical or vocal hook and, when The Wednesday Club bring in heavier riffs towards the end, the lack of studio polish means that it isn't a pleasant sound.
The second reoccurring theme with 'Soap' is the campfire-inspired sing along.
'Let's Get Megamechanical 'Brackets' is a casual, hand-clap-studded acoustic rattle with plenty of gang vocals. 'The Spirit of The Harolds (Golden Peacocks)' takes a similarly hand-clap-driven beat and mixes it up with fizzy synths. 'Ladtime (Crytime)' completes the trio, with a country-flavoured, harmonica-studded acoustic plod. All three tracks may very well get your foot tapping appreciatively, but it's difficult to imagine anyone going crazy for campfire tunes.
The third, and strangest, group of songs on 'Soap' are collages of voiceover clips played over low-key musical backdrops. While the triple-header of 'A Millerman's Stoop (Soapy Version),' 'Harmonic Generator (Pretentio, The Clown)' and 'Keep The Lasagna Flying (A Posh Wank Into Old Glory)' are certainly different, their choice of voiceover clips don't seem to be expressing anything meaningful. There doesn't seem to be a particular message or emotion behind these mind-bogglingly random tracks and, consequently, they come across as art simply for arts sake.
'Soap' also offers two quieter numbers. 'Hit By Teeth (The Beating)' is all delicate acoustic plucking and atmospheric strings, before The Wednesday Club crack out the tribal drumbeats in a synth-studded climax. 'Umbrella (Umbrella)' features vocalist A.J Miller droning "I was there, it was raining" over the sound of a rainstorm in a song that's so literal, it's actually quite funny.
'Numbers 1 and 3 (Do The Broady!)' is one of the rare 'proper' songs on this album (where 'proper' translates as 'longer than two minutes.')
'Numbers 1 and 3...' chooses to repeat a handful of lyrics over and over, and resistance really is futile: they will get fixed in your head.
This song's more restrained moments are accomplished, namely an occasional flourish of acoustic guitar, and an end-section of harmonious, multi-layered vocals. However, 'Numbers 1 and 3...' once again makes use of a distorted riff that'll have you wincing away from the speakers, although this is probably due to the CD's poor production, rather than any fault on The Wednesday Club's part.
The steady, light-rock buzz of 'Diplomatic Sugar, Naturally (And Pear Too)' again captures The Wednesday Club in an expansive mood, clocking in at almost two minutes long. So does 'Mvemjsunp (You'll Always Be A Planet To Me)' which clunks along with a trimming of tinny synths giving it a sparkling edge. Even when the guitars swell up beneath this song's sparse clatter, for once The Wednesday Club manage to reign in that unpleasant, abrasive edge, and you won't be shrinking away from your speakers.
Track twenty two, 'Self Medicate To Victory (Hep Cat)' is unusual for The Wednesday Club in that it features an extended instrumental introduction of fidgety acoustic guitar that revs up into the main body of the song, giving this track a sense of momentum. Also serving as an effective hook, is the subtle, but intricate, interaction between main and backing vocals. However, it all goes a bit wrong after the midway point, with the hook-packed interaction between main and backing vocals replaced by cries of "waaaaaah-ha" and strange groaning noises.
'Soap' is an odd album, as bands who are as wilfully eccentric as The Wednesday Club are usually a lot more fun to listen to. 'Soap' is prog/indie/art-rock/country with a liberal dose of straight-faced artiness that, to a certain extent, keeps the listener on the outside, and ensures 'Soap' remains something of an inside joke. Behind the poor production, 'Soap' is always musically and vocally inventive, and there are a handful of tracks on here that have perfected that blend of angular hooks and spring-heeled, unusual drumbeats.
'Saturday's Curse...' 'Vocabulary Sandwich...' and '(David) Pole...' are worth a listen if you like your indie to veer more towards the weirdness of The White Stripes' album-only tracks, and away from the radio-friendliness of The Kooks.