WV White: House Of Spiritual Athletes (Anyway Records)

Winning second LP from the Columbus OH band in the grand tradition of US indie, GBV, 'Mats

Released Apr 21st, 2017 via Anyway Records / By Erick Mertz
WV White: House Of Spiritual Athletes (Anyway Records) A one minute track, HOSA I opens House Of Spiritual Athletes, an arrangement of stringed instruments out of tune, struggling to come together. Usually I’m dubious of these sorts of instrumental tracks as needless space filler, or clumsy reaching for concept that is barely present, but for WV White this feels like a genuine prelude to an album that masterfully flaunts conventional senses of harmony.

The guttersnipes in WV White (or West Virginia White, named for the summer, moth-like butterflies abundant around the Rust Belt) are prolific crafters of songs about the myriad of busted states within the human condition. On Broken Arm the lyrics about falling apart both physically and emotionally warble out over a single strummed guitar, so vulnerable you want to reach through and cuddle the lead singer; at just one minute and thirty seconds Home To No One mines similar territory, acoustics more stripped down. While the connection to The Smiths might be defined as loose at best, Brain Left Down feels to me like an offbeat cover of Back To The Old House only sung by the porch light, buzzing with summer mosquitoes. I mean, bollocks to Morrissey’s perfect falsetto, he doesn’t have the market cornered on woe. The vocals on House Of Spiritual Athletes would be an acquired taste for anyone checking WV White out, shrill at times, always out of tune. They aren’t radio friendly, but they are hand in glove with subject.

The most accurate categorization of House Of Spiritual Athletes is an indie rock record, but more precisely, it’s regionally focused, Rust Belt indie, in the grand traditions of Guided By Voices and The Replacements, sloppy while managing to evoke strong disaffected emotions. On my summer play list this year, Drag Down will fill a prominent role, a sumptuous mid-tempo, garage door open rock tune that I sing along with even though I barely know any of the words. There are others like it, Truth Is New a blown-out anthem, featuring the most crushing bass line from anywhere on the track list. The record successfully packs a lot of solid songwriting into the eleven tracks. It never feels like the band is reaching, or compromising. The fat churning chords opening Backwards are pure basement rock and Space the longest song on the record opens the band’s sound up to more experimentation that anywhere else. My criticisms of contemporary garage rock is that the lo-fi, scuffed edged sound is more about being cheap and quick, but WV White uses those elements for aesthetic.

As I had hoped, House Of Spiritual Athletes ends on a blissfully melancholic tone. Maybe the most effusive song on the record, Evil aches and hopes until it fades into the LP run out, leaving the listener clamoring for more of this dusty, smoke infused rock. I’m a huge fan of this record, hungry for more of what these guys have up their sleeves.