All Head, No Hooks
Itchy, genre-defying wildman E.D. Sedgwick, whose name is a play on that of Warholian siren Edie Sedgwick, has made something of an artist’s statement in We Wear White, a flailing, scattershot affair, and the performer’s fourth full-length release. E.D.—a.k.a. Justin Moyer, ex-bandmate of DC punk band El Guapo—also works as an opinion writer for The Washington Post, which proves an expository factoid: His latest batch of songs cascade with dense, paragraphs-long lyrical effrontery, with the singer often groping at pop references like a speed-hooked perv on the Washington Metro. The album’s flighty and argumentative angle has E.D. and his all-lady backup deconstructing today’s music, as well as other sociological realities, in a kind of spastic musical dissertation. The result is conceptually interesting but ultimately a musical letdown.
“Dirty” inaugurates the set well enough, though. Its spiky, reverbed boogie recalls the thundering snottiness of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion—whose eminent frontman, incidentally, was a DC scenester himself with Pussy Galore. The cut’s delightful backing vocals, sprinkled throughout White courtesy of soul sister JosaFeen Wells and bassist/singer Kristina Buddenhagen, lend a nice counterpoint to E.D.’s tent revival hysterics. The lead singer growls and spits over a brisk bassline, windy with rapid-fire lines like, “I got my THC / I speak of things that’re dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty / For you and me.” His punk proselyte routine is continued in the also effective self-titled track, “We Wear White,” a soft-edges, mid-tempo number talking up the band’s saintly sartorial agenda. Its stark, romantic chords prove one of a few occasions where the music actually rises to its manic content.
White’s highest moment may be found in “Goddam,” a cut where E.D. hands his vocal reins to the loud and lovely JosaFeen. Swampy, finger-picked chords play to a lean and direct rhythm as the group’s soulful singer turns in a sassy and engaging performance. In the end, though, the frontman’s twin attack of ptyalistic yammering and often hookless song structures has a way of leadening We Wear White. By the time you reach the hiccuping effusions of “DNA”—which knocks down the once-imagined subject barriers between Christ, Seinfeld’s Kramer and current psych band Animal Collective in a single, time-traveling survey of life on Earth—or the hasty, “no means no” raw-dogging of “Ghost Dick,” you’re just about exhausted. Then closer “Weatherman” comes on and—perhaps keying into the upending anger of the ’60s leftist faction, Weather Underground—E.D. finally bares the whole magilla. “Fuck the 1960s / And fuck the 1970s / And fuck the 1980s,” he yells, in a critique of today’s music scene and its taste for musical dumpster diving. “We need some new shit / To kill this old shit.” Actually well said, E.D. It’s just your shit’s not the shit to do it.