Doug goes on the record: Album review of Cusses, by Cusses
Editor's note: Doug McGrath is a music contributor with four decades of experience as a member of the Dallas music community. This week, he reviews the self-titled debut by Cusses, a power-pop band from Savannah, Georgia.
Album:Cusses (2012, HA! Records)
Rating: 4 out of 4
One line: Chiseled postpunk guitar, pounding drums, and high-energy vocals carve out a blistering and surprisingly good debut album.
This band is a new/old find I discovered at, of all places, my physical therapy appointment. I was showing off photos of a recent performance by my band, Dagger Club, and this got my therapist talking to me about one of her favorite bands, a trio from Savannah, Georgia, called Cusses. She suspected I might like them, and suggested I try them out.
I went first to YouTube where I found two great videos from their 2012 self-titled album: "Worst Enemy" and "Don’t Give In." Then I watched a live performance of "Blood Everywhere," a song about being figuratively gutted by lost love, recorded in September 2012 at Savannah nightclub The Jinx.
I have a new musical respect for my physical therapist. Cusses kills.
This trio made its debut in 2012 with a hooky, polished, and addicting self-titled album (which I bought less than 12 hours after watching those videos). Cusses is so great, you have to wonder why they didn't get huge nationally.
Vocalist Angel Bond is a live wire. Her bandmates Brian Lackey (drums) and Bryan Harder (guitar) pump out music that is inspired and influenced by a bunch of things – you can hear surf, punk, postpunk, and big guitar-hero type stuff in it – yet it’s completely original.
Cusses sounds vaguely like the '80s at times, because Angel has a little bit of Dale Bozzio from Missing Persons in her voice, with spirited squeaks and shrieks punctuating her playfully high-frequency tales on the album, especially on tracks like "The Wait Is Over."
Their lack of a bass player is obvious when you watch Cusses live, but it sounds like they recorded a bass track for the album. Live, Harder runs his guitar through a guitar rig and a bass rig simultaneously, so at times he'll strum just the big sixth string and it sounds a lot like bass guitar. This device is more of a thing now, especially in the metal scene.
Harder is an interesting and versatile guitarist. On Cusses, he plays a lot of one-string riffs, with a lightly distorted Fender Stratocaster that sounds "plinky," like East Bay Ray from the Dead Kennedys. He'll do that for a while, and then he'll hit big, fat chords that sound huge.
On a couple of songs, his guitar breathes freely during breaks from the drums, with a gentle, echo-y twang. He stretches himself to create a number of different textures within the band's signature sound. At their high-octane best, Cusses is a pulsating, bouncing, pop rock hook machine.
Anchoring everything are Brian Lackey’s powerful drumming and the ever-present Angel, who squeals, belts, squeaks, hiccups, and coos her way through various lyrical situations and moods.
Despite its irresistible sound, Cusses never hit it big. However, the band won a contest to open a Bon Jovi show in Memphis in early 2017, and it seems to have injected new life. They're advertising a new single, "Critical," that will be released May 25. The night before the release, they open for Descendents in Asheville, North Carolina, followed by festival appearances in Georgia in June and July.
With any luck, maybe the band will tour and make their way out to Texas. I certainly hope so.