Douglas Martin’s Dirty Shoes: Suitcase and the Artistic Ventures of Wimps

The Seattle garage-punks return with a swift lively and funny album. But there’s also growing restlessness in their approach to songwriting, trying out new methods and seeing what works for them
By    November 17, 2015


Douglas Martin wants you young punks on his lawn. 

When we last left Wimps, they had hooked up with Kill Rock Stars, who put their leftover Elliott Smith money to excellent use by releasing an EP about backwash and eating ramen over the sink. Super Me was touted as the precursor to Wimps’ second LP, which came upon a speedy arrival considering that five-song EP was only released three months ago. Makes perfect sense, though, being as Wimps songs don’t seem that complicated to play nor do they require bassoon sections or a children’s chorus. Efficient simplicity is part of their charm.

That being said, the formula is switched up a little on Suitcase. Unless you use a healthy amount of deductive reasoning and assume the titular character on “Vampire” does in fact rest in a Bram Stoker custom coffin during the daylight hours, (sadly) none of its songs are about sleeping. And while there are iterations of classic Wimps themes—including living in the messiest house ever on “Dump” and “getting brain” in “Couches”—the more intriguing songs on the album deal in song-length character studies and meditations on community.

It’s a given that the old guy at the party is a common accoutrement when it comes to get-togethers, and the one on “Old Guy” appropriately stereotypes all of them. He fondly references 1984 (the year, not the book), tries to bum a can of beer, and asserts that he’s neither landlord nor father, all in service of having something to do to get himself out of the house. The title track is a herky-jerky song about a woman who is flighty in both the figurative and literal sense of the word, who wheels her clothes around (but forgot her socks, hairbrush, and underwear) and doesn’t tell her husband about it in case she has to light for the territories with the quickness.

“Capitol Hill,” though not quite as trenchant as Childbirth’s “Let’s Be Bad” and not nearly as hilarious as “Tech Bro” (both from this year’s excellent Women’s Rights LP), still serves as effective commentary on Seattle’s erstwhile weirdo/artist neighborhood, watching those weirdos and artists along the Pike/Pine corridor disappear and be replaced by the hordes of bros that clog the streets when the bars close. In the past couple years, Seattleites have been watching as our fair city rapidly morphs into the new San Francisco and prices out all the people who make our creative community what it is. As San Francisco is Doomed inevitably and unfortunately proved, protest through song is probably not going to turn around the tidal wave that is gentrification, but it’s always reassuring to know the city’s creative types aren’t going to turn a blind eye to all the 50-foot cranes.

Wimps are also getting more adventurous structurally as well as lyrically. Though the aforementioned “Vampire” on the face of it sounds like your average Wimps tune, there’s something infectious about singing “I’m a Vampire” in the same tone upwards of fifty times in less than two minutes; it’s reminiscent of the kind of song you’d sing as a kid in the grocery store to annoy the shit out of your parents. Closing track “Basement” does the same vocally, but instrumentally, its playful disregard for rhythm provides a psychedelic effect. It’s a progression of the Wimps sound, an unexpected twist in their mostly straightforward presentation.

Like you’d expect from a Wimps album, Suitcase is swift and brief, lively and funny. But there’s also growing restlessness in their approach to songwriting, trying out new methods and seeing what works for them. For all their outward musical aesthetic as slacker-punks, there’s a glint of ambition that’s quickly becoming more than just a glint.

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