Frauhaus! is like an itch you don’t want to scratch. For the album’s bite-sized 30-minute duration, London-based trio Wetdog jabs, plods, and stammers out some of the best jaunty female post-punk since The Slits or The Raincoats. And while its fair to say that Wetdog exist in the spirit of these pioneering groups, they’re not here to pay homage. To compartmentalize them in such an air-tight micro-genre would be to assume that these ladies subconsciously desire to be a cover band. A more apt description of Wetdog would place them alongside like-minded yet essentially dissimilar contemporaries such as Vivian Girls or Micachu.
Frauhaus! is the band’s second album, a collection of scrappy and playfully snarling songs that would be the natural soundtrack to wandering a city derive-style. It’s decidedly more trimmed-down than their previous effort, 2008’s Enterprise Reversal, which, at 22 songs and roughly 45 minutes, tried the patience of many a reviewer looking to easily digest and quantify. Instead, Frauhaus! is concise: play one side, flip it over, play the B-side, repeat. The album’s length lends itself to repeated, effortless listens, achieving a cohesion of theory and practice that’s rarely realized. For a band that would eschew capitalization altogether and that, while surely somewhat serious about its craft, seems to be taking a glorious piss in interviews, Wetdog’s marriage of attitude and musical stylings is wonderfully coherent.
“Lower Leg” starts the party and is the album’s “single.” It is also the song most likely to be anthologized in 10 years on some music nerd cock-stroking compilation of mid-to-late-00s post-punk “revivalism.” The song’s visual embodiment is a video of simple playtime in a pool, underlining the band’s desire to project an anti-image, to exist to the world at large without the pretense and posturing that pervades so many carefully manicured aesthetics of musical acts in the virtual space. The video exhibits Wetdog’s disdain for weeding and their desire to put it all out there, a trait evidenced by both their satisfaction of their first album sounding like it was “recording in a fucking shoe box” and their opinion that the sneering of people confounded by their music is “a good look, (because) it hides their cunt faces.” These are seemingly heavy statements but rendered utterly weightless amongst all the band’s other halfhearted utterances. Like I said, having a laugh and taking a piss.
“Trehorne Beach Song” starts off on the unsure footing of wet, shifting sand, the bassline taking baby steps and laying the foundation for a wonderfully uncomfortable jam. “Ethiopia” is all about the keyboard, which echoes a content, disembodied spirit springing from an Ethiopiques compilation. It is in no way “authentic,” but that’s the point: interpretation through a subjective filter. “Women’s Final” invokes the best of The Slits vocal personification with eeks, whoos, ha’s, and oomphs. In the simplest of music such as this, the voice is a vital instrument. “Fistface” has a broad-fisted, hammy bassline supplied by Billy Easter, with Rivka Gillieron’s guitar only there to agitate the atmosphere. In music this simple and uncomfortably marching, there must be a constructed, visceral atmosphere in the absence of any kind of wow factor.
Is Frauhaus! a groundbreaking musical statement? Absolutely not. Is it in the spirit of great, similarly-minded albums from contemporaries past and present? Resoundingly, yes. But is this something I need to hear? Needs versus wants. Citing Wetdog to your friends may or may not prove to them your status as a musical taste curator, but this short, focused, concise album is something slightly unsettling but completely enjoyable. If anything, its brevity and shamelessly unbothered attitude will be a breath of fresh air to your already saturated eardrums.