Wednesday: Rat Saw God

Rat Saw God
Rat Saw God
Genre: Indie Rock
Label: Dead Oceans
Producer: Alex Farrar
Release Year: 2023
Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

Not to be confused with the TV series of the same name, Wednesday is, in fact, a rock band from North Carolina. And Rat Saw God is their fifth album. A weird fact considering they’ve only been making albums since 2018. That’s a pretty brisk clip for anyone not called Guided By Voices (who literally put out twelve albums during that same timeframe). Though you’d hardly see GBV throw down an eight-and-a-half minute song like Wednesday does on their lead single, “Bull Believer.” The last four minutes of which is just lead singer, Karly Hartzman, just yodeling, yelling and maniacally screaming “Finish Him” over a cloud of guitar in reference to an earlier line in the song about playing Mortal Combat. Ballzzzy!

I suppose that kind of devolution of music into a series of dream-like distortion, fuzz and squeal would be the reason for the band’s sorta-shoegaze tag. A genre that, frankly, sounds an awful lot like regular old indie rock. But I suppose is a little more abstract. It’s not like they’re My Bloody Valentine or anything, so I’m not sure what that’s all about. In fact, some of the band’s appeal is their kind of all-over-the-place sound. Because there are more moments than not where they veer into alt-country. In fact, my first exposure to the band was their track, “Chosen to Deserve.” They have a lap steel player in the band, and it’s put to great effect here paired with Hartzman’s aforementioned lazy yodel. Even the subject matter — bored and drinking and drugging in the sticks on a weekend night to the benefit of nobody — is pretty country. The whole thing feels like a Son Volt tune done by a much younger generation.

The songs themselves are propulsive and varied. But they also spin great yarns of normal young people doing normal young people things, but with an edge. Think of it as a nice Jewish girl writing songs in the tradition of Lifter Puller / early The Hold Steady. But about these Southern Christians who also overdose in parking lots, deal drugs and fight on their front lawns in their underwear. The kind of insider-outsider P.O.V. that makes for good tale-telling. The stories in her songs aren’t anthemic and uplifting, or even I-gotta-get-out-of-this-town the way our Jersey heroes might tell them. Nah, they’re observational, but not inspirational. They’re earthy and prose-like, the way you’d hope your best country music might be. But with way less about trucks, hats and hound dogs. Even if you know they’re in there somewhere. Musically and thematically, it’s an album that is extremely listenable and grows with each spin. Even as a guy who doesn’t often listen to lyrics, one can’t help to get sucked into Hartzman’s world and appreciate what she’s drawn for us. Set to some terrific indie rock tunage.