Does anybody remember Bongwater? That late 80’s, early 90’s shambolic psyche-rock outfit featuring actress Ann Magnusson and Shimmy Disc’s Kramer? The sixty-eight second opening track “Pete Jogs Poodle” from San Francisco three-piece Wet Illustrated’s debut perfectly encapsulates the tripped-out wonder of Bongwater. There’s a TV on in the background, someone’s playing something that sounds like a zither drenched in LSD but minus Ann Magnusson’s drunken dream inspired pay-off. “Pete Jogs Poodle” has nothing to do with the dozen other tracks on 1x1x1, but any reason to namecheck Bongwater bodes well.
1x1x1 reveals itself to be a mixture of passed-down pastoral Flying Nun-isms and lo-fi pop rambunctions reminiscent of the late, lamented genius of Jay Reatard or the skewed squall of Times New Viking. Which is to say a lot of noise is made, a lot of random feelings are snottily shouted out — “this noise is going to my head”, “I don’t wanna go down to the marketplace today” — and guitars are given an all-out thrashing. There’s more on the menu than just kicking up a racket though. “Herman’s Head” throws a simple keyboard riff into the mix, doubling up on the melodic pull, and the layered jangle of “Born Stoked” sounds like The Feelies meets Sonic Youth revealing one of the album’s highlights. It all sounds good on paper, doesn’t it?
The two best tracks here are the final two on the record when Wet Illustrated pull back a little and play with mood and texture. “(Where I Wanna Be) Buried” is as gloomy as it sounds, underpinned by some ferocious guitar interplay and the soft rumble of drums that would fit perfectly on side one of Daydream Nation, and the instrumental finale “Luxury Waives” which sounds like another band entirely. It’s accidentally beautiful, serene even, despite a tornado of guitar feedback hiding behind its chiming counterparts. If only Wet Illustrated had given the two tracks that bookend 1x1x1 more consideration, this album could’ve showed any number of possibilities.
Wet Illustrated epitomise the band that would be awesome to play in, but the end result isn‘t exciting enough to distinguish itself in a way that lodges into the brain and refuses to shift. It tries pretty hard, but at best 1x1x1 playfully kicks and shouts and boogies away for a neat half hour or so, which if that’s your thing, Wet Illustrated are surely calling your name, but for now, let’s see what they do next.