Steampunk is a very interesting place. People can be whoever they want to be and it creates a universe of incredibly unique characters. The Wattingers easily fall into the category of “incredibly unique”. Based on the families that are typically portrayed in horror films as psychotic hillbillies, driven crazy from solitude and generations of inbreeding. Less so on the latter with the Wattingers I feel, but they have lost none of their grim darkness.
The new album Bad Day at Growler’s Rock is interesting. In the way that it seems to have the typical dark vibe that would make you terrified of walking through a forest in North Carolina in case you meet the same fate as the Roanoke. The Wattingers describe themselves as Slaughterhouse Blues. While that’s a musical genre that they’ve made up, it’s extremely fitting for them.
The album starts off typically dark with the slow, atmospheric So Glad (I’ve Got Good Religion) before moving into The Widest Longpig You Ever Did See. The rolling percussion ambles the narrative along which is a growling story of collecting some Moonshine from the Farrell family. Interestingly, the song mentions the Polk family. They were featured in series 6 of American Horror Story and have become distant relatives of the Wattingers in their ever expanding back story.
Despite the initial impression of the album being made out of pure evil, there’s a certain degree of black humour seeping through the lyrics. Some tracks also have a lighter, more upbeat feel to them than what you’d expect from this band. The title track Bad Day at Growler’s Rock sees an affluent Airship Captain crash on the Wattinger’s land. He spends the song pleading for his life. Regardless of the grim lyrics, it’s a light and airy song and benefits from backing vocals by Matthew Rogers of Victor & The Bully and upright bass from Natasha Crystal Berry.
Alongside Matt Rogers and Natasha Berry, Mary ‘Voodoo Queen’ Deigan appears playing bass on So Glad. Other than that Martin plays all instruments on the album with the exception of Gospel Tent and Riley where family member Ren Wattinger helps on Guitar and Bass respectively. As someone who can’t play any instrument at all. I have trouble with the Triangle and in music lessons at school the only thing I played was truant. Which is why I always admire people who can play multiple instruments.
After seeing The Wattingers live at Phoenix Alternative Festival, I received the album with excitement and some trepidation. I love the fact that they’re the only band in the UK that make this type of music in the steampunk scene. I also love that they’ve constructed such a huge back story to their characters and incorporated pop culture into it. That initial trepidation of expecting an album of dark, brooding music that may be extremely niche was washed away when Riley kicked in on track 5. It has a much more light-hearted approach than what you might expect and adds a nice contrast to the previous dark tracks that get you there.
The Wattingers – Bad Day at Growler’s Rock album review conclusion
The Wattingers are now into their tenth year and have a great little cult following. When their album was announced their was a buzz of excitement around the UK steampunk community and I’d love to see that in the USA maybe. There’s no reason why this type of American inspired blues shouldn’t do well. It would be deliciously ironic. Bad Day at Growler’s Rock is a dirty, dark, evil, funny, squelchy, gritty album that gets inspired by hillbillies, rednecks and stereotypical Victorian era inbred families of America’s vast forests.
Bad Day at Growler’s Rock (featuring my gorgeous friend Monique on the front cover) costs £9.99 for an extremely well made physical CD through Steampunk Records. Steampunk Records is a not for profit music distribution centre, so please support the artists on there.
Follow The Wattingers on Facebook to see what they’re up to.