Wednesday Level Up Once Again on the Bruising 'Rat Saw God'

BY Dylan BarnabePublished Apr 5, 2023

Today's new music Friday belongs to Wednesday. The Asheville quintet's signature brand of '90s shoegaze-meets-grunge-meets-country makes a welcome return on Rat Saw God, an album that fuses the autobiographical with the fantastical to earth-shaking effect.   

On their third album, Wednesday wail into the void of modern-day malaise with euphoric confidence. The North Carolina quintet, comprised of lead vocalist and songwriter Karly Hartzman, MJ Lenderman (guitar), Margo Shultz (bass), Alan Miller (drums), and Xandy Chelmis (lap and pedal steel guitar), deliver a melancholic masterpiece and solidify their status as one of the more exciting bands making music today. Now signed to Dead Oceans — whose current roster of label artists includes the likes of Phoebe Bridgers and Japanese Breakfast — Wednesday rise to a new level of greatness with Rat Saw God, an album that more than proves the hype surrounding its whip-smart creators. 

Rat Saw God is charmingly provincial, tied to Hartzman's memories growing up in North Carolina and infused with tales passed down by family and friends. Across ten tracks, she crafts careful vignettes of the American south that are both funny and tragic. Visits to Dollywood, sipping "piss colored bright yellow Fanta" ("Bath Country"); drinking until you throw up at your parents' house ("Chosen to Deserve"); or simply standing in line at Panera Bread ("TV in the Gas Pump") make up the eclectic backdrop for the band's existential musings. Therein lies Wednesday's real magic trick: Hartzman's uncanny ability to take the specificity of location and deliver on the universality of experience. She situates you so strongly within her world, yet succeeds in creating a relatable experience that can't help but elicit an emotional response miles away. 

The overlap between absurdity and enlightenment is also deftly handled by the band, best captured by the penultimate track "What's So Funny." It opens with the image of someone dropping a chainsaw stoned and then having to wait until it runs out of gas. A silly situation, to be sure, but the song quickly gives way to darker introspection as Hartzman sings "Memory always twists the knife / Nothing will ever be as vivid as the darkest time of my life" and concludes having "Found out who I was and it wasn't pretty / Suddenly it's a tragic story / But that's what's so funny." Wednesday understand that life is what happens between the things that make you laugh and the things that make you cry — or often, both interdependently.  

Overall, the intimate nature of the lyrics is beautifully complemented by the noisy elements of Shultz, Lenderman, Chelmis and Miller's guitars and percussion. The push-pull of reverb heavy guitars ("Bull Believer") paired with the twang of old school country ("Formula One") is, in and of itself, an evolving and mercurial dynamic within the band that keeps things fresh. Rat Saw God is wildly ambitious and easily lives up to the industry hype — Wednesday have succeeded once again in twisting nostalgia and existential dread into a braid of bruising, life-affirming rock music. We're lucky to have them. 
(Dead Oceans)

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