Wednesday Touch the Divine on the Glorious Rat Saw God

The Asheville band’s Dead Ocean’s debut is their best, most realized collection of songs yet

wednesday rat saw god album review
Wednesday, photo by Brandon McClain

    Not too long ago, Asheville indie rockers Wednesday were making self-deprecating jokes about their name being, perhaps, not the most easily Google-able, adding roadblocks to the already roadblock-laden path to indie stardom. Enter Jenna Ortega and Tim Burton’s Netflix show of the same name, and the obstacles (and laughs) only grew in size. And yet, Wednesday persevered, and with the release of their latest full-length Rat Saw God, out today via Dead Oceans, they’re getting more attention than ever – and god damn is it deserved.

    Rat Saw God is their most immediate, realized, and concisely Wednesday project yet – the perfect send-off to their status as underground favorites and a fitting start to what could very well prove to be a landmark run. Call it country-gaze, bubble-grunge, or skip the genre classifications altogether, the project is 10 tracks of immaculate songwriting, big ideas, and sheer character.

    As if anticipating that this album would be their introduction to a host of new fans, opener “Hot Rotten Grass Smell” consolidates the band’s essence into a brief but potent statement. A ‘90s-inspired guitar arpeggio quickly gives way to a cacophony of feedback and larger-than-life guitar chords before the tune settles into a blistering, chugging verse complete with distorted lap steel and frontwoman Karly Hartzman’s gripping vocals. In less than two minutes, Wednesday presented listeners with everything they need to know. They can be soft and melodic or loud and aggressive. They might take cues from southern rock or give My Bloody Valentine a run for their money with a shoegazy wall of sound. Often, they’ll do both within the same song.


    “Bull Believer” follows and functions similarly, but contrasts the immediacy of the opener with a drawn-out, grungy, eight-minute-plus behemoth. Wednesday nod to each of their stylistic influences: alt-rock with the tune’s wild dynamics, country with the mid-track cooldown, and noisier indie with the screamed, deafening outro. It’s the entirety of the album condensed into one song, and when paired with “Hot Rotten Grass Smell,” it makes for one hell of a hello.

    Tracks like “Formula One” or the stand-out single “Chosen to Deserve,” with their earworm melodies and front-and-center lap steel, bring out the emotionality of their country leanings. The latter in particular echoes the band’s cover of Gary Stewart’s “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinking Doubles)” from their quarantine covers album Mowing the Leaves Instead of Piling ’em Up, revealing just how integral their North Carolina roots are to their identity. (Side note: Is Wednesday the cure for folks who say they listen to “anything but country?”)

    Songs like “Turkey Vultures” or “TV in the Gas Pump,” on the other hand, place Rat Saw God firmly within the pantheon of left-field indie rock. Often utilizing unconventional structures and mining the intersection of catchiness and abrasiveness, Wednesday’s appreciation of acts like Smashing Pumpkins comes further into focus. The penultimate song, “What’s So Funny,” even brandishes hints of slowcore, further lengthening the list of sub-genres the band drops into their stylistic melting pot.


    Over top this sonic collage is Hartzman’s singular lyricism. Since the band’s inception, Hartzman’s blend of grounded images and absurdist turns of phrase has always been integral to Wednesday’s appeal. Painting vivid portraits of decaying southern landscapes and utilizing enough references to warrant an annotated accompaniment, her grasp on juxtaposition allows her lines to hit with force and linger long after the album comes to an end. “Sippin’ piss colored bright yellow Fanta/ Heard someone died in the Planet Fitness parking lot,” she sings on “Bath County.” “On the way home, play Drive-by Truckers songs real loud/ You’ll be my baby ‘til my body’s in the ground.”

    Put all these disparate pieces together, and you get a surprisingly cohesive, incredibly engaging project. Longtime fans won’t be surprised at such a revelation, as each of their previous albums has drawn closer and closer to the bullseye that is Rat Saw God. From I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone’s charismatic lo-fi charm to Twin Plagues’ perfect refinement, it’s as if Wednesday has been building to this album all along.

    Rat Saw God is the type of kaleidoscopic album that offers up something new to appreciate with each listen. It’s a record worth hearing, recommending, and obsessing over – Google search results be damned.

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