Wevie Stonder. Get it? It’s like, if you take Stevie Wonder’s name, and take the “S” from “Stevie” and switch it with the “W” from “Wonder.” That gives you “Wevie Stonder.” Funny, right? Maybe? A little bit?
Funny or not, Wevie Stonder is a British band that attempts to take the always dicey “joke music” genre to a higher ground. “Higher Ground.” Get it? That was a Stevie Wonder song.
All right. Let me wipe away the flop sweat and move on. Wevie Stonder has very few actual similarities with Stevie Wonder. In place of “blind” and “black,” the guys in Wevie Stonder are “sighted” and “British.” The band says its sound is more original than a “five-legged otter in a pith helmet.” That must mean that a five-legged otter in a pith helmet rips off Ween even worse than Stonder does.
Okay, “rips off” might be a little harsh, but The Wooden Horse of Troy, the band’s second full-length, has GodWeenSatan written all over it. From shambolic, druggy junkyard jams to ADD genre-hopping exercises to surreal, non-sequitur-laden narratives, this is record, whether intentionally or not, aligns Wevie Stonder with New Hope, Pennsylvania’s most celebrated “brothers.”
Like the best of Ween, there are some truly inspired moments of head-scratching brilliance on this record. The macabre “When the Last Thing You Want Is the First Thing You Get” features a grotesque, pitch-shifted call and response between a man who is about to be buried alive and the man who will bury him. The spastic “Brucie” re-imagines Black Sabbath’s famous “War Pigs” intro as the sound of a car engine futilely attempting to turn over. It shifts into droning folk, British dance-rap, sing-song-y children’s verse and spacey psychedelia all within about three and a half minutes. Unfortunately, these highlights get lost amid too many undistinguished cartoon-dirges and in-joke wankery.
Whereas Ween’s intended demographic often appears to be stoned college kids looking for something to listen to while they load up the bong and wait for Adult Swim to start, Wevie Stonder aims higher. The Wooden Horse of Troy is on Skam Records, which usually caters to avant-garde electronic acts. It’s distributed by Forced Exposure, whose client list reads like a “who’s who” of the experimental underground’s finest. In short, this is joke music for those who read the Wire and salivate every time Nurse with Wound puts a new record out.
The problem is that Wevie Stonder never elevates to joke-music nirvana, in which each track builds on the one before until a truly impenetrable universe of surreal brilliance has been created. No matter the target audience, these guys get stuck in the “occasionally funny” category, too derivative and out-right jokey to demand repeat listens.
But, the name! Wevie Stonder! That’s hilarious.