Released late last year in the U.K. on respected boutique label Angular (The Long Blondes and These New Puritans) and making its way to the U.S. via white-hot Brooklyn-based Captured Tracks, Frauhaus! is the second full-length in 18 months from the all-female London trio Wetdog. Arriving like an estrogen-fueled version of The Fall, the record is 14 tracks of short, angular punk outbursts.
Opener and first single “Lower Leg” announces itself with a supernaturally tight bass line and a chorus that’s as obnoxious as it is catchy, a trick the ladies of Wetdog almost certainly learned from X-Ray Spex. “Trees Fall” is a quieter tune on which the expert interplay between shimmering guitar lines and echo laden vocals recalls the late, lamented Electrelane. “That Man Delivers Papers” follows hard upon and goes so far into Fall territory — even the lyric is a plausible Mark E. Smith composition — it could believably be sold as a long lost B-side from the Mancunian legends.
The sound of Wetdog comes from an orthodox school of innovative U.K. post-punk/new wave, following a formula that hasn’t changed much in a quarter century. “Fist Face” is a good example of this: Start with a simple, aggressive bass and drum part, add abstract lyrics that are equal parts shouted and sung, sprinkle a dash of rudimentary synth squelch, lather, rinse, repeat.
Frauhaus! will appeal to the kind of listener whose interest in the evolution of underground music started waning at some point around 1980. Wetdog certainly have the chops and the perfectly honed musical background to transcend their own influences, and Frauhuaus! is not without its memorable moments. But for every standout like the rhythmically muscular rave-up “Wymmin’s Final,” there’s a tune like “Snapper,” a two-minute endurance test of off-key circus music paired with tentative vocal yelps. It’s certainly punk, but it does not rock. At less than a 30-minute running time, it’s revealing that much of Frauhaus! is quite tedious. The future may hold great things for Wetdog, but for now their appeal doesn’t reach much further than diehard genre adherents.