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WIVES - So Removed Music Album Reviews

The Queens band WIVES channel the bygone squalor of NYC’s Y2K rock renaissance.

Had they emerged 15 years ago, it’s easy to imagine the Queens band WIVES getting scooped up by RCA in the post-Strokes feeding frenzy and lingering on the fringes of the New York Y2K rock renaissance just long enough to collect a few saucy backstage anecdotes about Albert Hammond Jr. to share in Meet Me in the Bathroom. But seeing as the infrastructure to hype up post-punky garage bands has all but disappeared in 2019, this quartet are free to be as weird and wired as they want to be. By channelling the locomotive rumble of the Velvet Underground, the menacing, bass-driven pulse of the Fall, and the surrealistic musings of the Pixies, WIVES eagerly hitch themselves to a long lineage of anti-social record-collector rock.


The Queens band WIVES channel the bygone squalor of NYC’s Y2K rock renaissance. Had they emerged 15 years ago, it’s easy to imagine the Queens band WIVES getting scooped up by RCA in the post-Strokes feeding frenzy and lingering on the fringes of the New York Y2K rock renaissance just long enough to collect a few saucy backstage anecdotes about Albert Hammond Jr. to share in Meet Me in the Bathroom. But seeing as the infrastructure to hype up post-punky garage bands has all but disappeared in 2019, this quartet are free to be as weird and wired as they want to be. By channelling the locomotive rumble of the Velvet Underground, the menacing, bass-driven pulse of the Fall, and the surrealistic musings of the Pixies, WIVES eagerly hitch themselves to a long lineage of anti-social record-collector rock.

But more than any particular band, their debut evokes a bygone era when underground New York City rock bands couldn’t help but reflect their seedy surroundings (back when there were still seedy surroundings to reflect). At a time when so much of the music we engage with is grappling—whether overtly or implicitly—with political turmoil and mental health, So Removed feels, well, so removed from the current conversation. Instead, WIVES coolly roam a subterranean nocturnal netherworld of their own design.

WIVES guitarist Andrew Bailey is also a founding member of dream-pop phenoms DIIV, but any connection between the two outfits ends there. Fitting for a group that formed because one of its members had some leftover time at his practice space, WIVES conceal an improvisational jam-band soul in a punk band’s body—though in their case, the jamming is verbal. On the opening “Waving Past Nirvana,” singer/guitarist James Beach rifles through a series of free-associative internal rhymes and open-ended kickers (“And your uncle, he wears a dress/With a shotgun and some meth/And no teeth where he peeks in his mirror to speak in tongues”) sounding like Black Francis after a CBD-oil massage.

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Beach’s musings are the focal point of every WIVES song, but his presence isn’t always enough to invigorate the album’s more even-keeled tracks, like the Stonesy rocker “Servants” or “Why Is Life,” which recalls post-reunion Pixies. But Beach can deliver the hooks when he tries: “The 20 Teens” relocates the E Street Band to the corner of Lexington and 125, while the glam racket of “Hideaway” yields the album’s most quotable chorus (“Don’t you sweat it girl/You’ll regret it, girl/You’re doing all the cocaine in the world”). In fact, there’s enough evidence here to suggest here that WIVES’ true calling is to shake off the agitated post-punk posture and embrace their inner Marc Bolan: On the space-bound ballad “The Future Is a Drag,” they bow out with a rusted-out “Metal Guru” to call their own. “We blew it, just for kicks,” Beach sings as the planet around him crumbles, but he doesn’t sound too bummed—because this song is his first-class ticket from the gutter to the stars.


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