Plymouth-based Riot Grrrl band WAGS to Wytches formed in the Summer of 2022. It was on the 9 July, to be exact, when “four unhinged reprobates descended upon Pirate Studios,” the band said, “for what would become the first ever WAGs practice. Things clicked immediately, and grooves started falling into place.”
WAGS to Wytches – 23 (Ruptured Ambitions)
Release Date: 23 July 2023
Words: Jools Green
Despite being a comparatively new band to the scene, there is plenty of experience within the line-up. Vocalist Lou and drummer Chris also played together in another Riot Grrrl band, Husbands N’ Knives and Chris is also the live drummer and stand-in live drummer for a whole string of Punk bands, including The Butt Plug Babies as well as being the vocalist for that legendary Punk band The Bus Station Loonies.
The title, 23, is derived from several sources. They recorded the album on 23 April 2023, and 23 is also, Lou explained in a recent band self-interview video, “the number of the hangman on the esoteric tree of life representing the sacrifices we have to go through, the ordeal and after that the knowledge and enlightenment reflecting the path that some of us have taken through the past.”
The album was also launched at The Nowhere Inn on the 23rd day of the month.
23 is a six-track EP spanning twenty-three minutes. There’s that number again! With the lyrics all penned by Lou and based upon her own experiences and interpretations, one of the things I like the most about this EP is the esoteric angle for some of the lyrical inspiration. This is unusual within the Punk genre, an aspect carried forward from Lou’s time with Husbands N’ Knives.
The lyrics throughout are very deep thinking, at times self-analytical and even a little dark, but always engagingly written.
Opening on Femcel, which looks at being suicidal, obsessed with death and hating the world, it becomes immediately apparent that there is going to be far more complexity to their sound than I first expected. I love the thick fuzzy guitar and bass sound, which has a bit of a noise-rock feel, contrasting superbly against Lou’s higher vocal delivery.
Alice n Wonderpants is about gaslighting in a covertly abusive relationship, disappearing down the rabbit hole of a relationship with someone who cuts you off from your friends. There’s a strong, pounding drum rhythm across the duration of the track. Add that to the crazy slant Lou adds to her vocal delivery, and both add to the eerie, unnerving atmosphere. The lyrics have psychedelic obscurity, amplifying the confusion of the victim.
There is still the fuzz to the guitar work, but it’s delivered in bursts allowing the drums to take more of a leading instrument role. A piece that is as engaging as it is unnerving.
Over seventy years after his death, Aleister Crowley’s legacy is still steeped in controversy. This next piece, Thelemite, is based around the modern-day OTO lodge sexual abuse scandal. It’s a fuzzy pounder of a track with a lovely sinister undercurrent coming from the riffs, and the music is restrained enough to allow the hugely expressive vocal delivery to shine through.
Polly is inspired by “the green-eyed monster” and the ugliness that comes with hating a rival. The vocals are so strong and expressive, the fuzzy riffs sparse but carefully delivered. I love the free, meandering style of bass lines delivered by Sasha. An understatedly powerful track.
Ruin looks at the subject of losing a loved one who ran away with someone else. It’s fuzzy, it’s frantic, and it’s angry, but such an enthralling listen.
Grandier is inspired by the story of renegade French Catholic priest Urbain Grandier, accused by a group of nuns from the local Ursuline convent of having bewitched them and sending the demon Asmodai, among others, to commit evil and impudent acts with them. He was later burned at the stake after being convicted of witchcraft.
Following the events of the so-called “Loudun possessions”, most modern commentators have concluded that Grandier was the victim of a politically motivated persecution led by the powerful Cardinal Richelieu. The whole tale has been immortalised in Ken Russel’s film The Devils and now further so in this track.
Opening on sinister-tinged fuzzy riffs, the pummelling drums and bass lines are set to the back with layers of chanting vocals. Combined, they give a ritualistic atmosphere to the piece. My favourite on the album.
23 was recorded by Doc Collins at Plymouth Music Collective and mixed by band guitarist and artist extraordinaire Francesca, who is also the creator of the superbly esoteric album artwork. She has also created a superb set of full colour, illustrated lyric cards, available separately, as an optional extra to accompany the EP.
If you fancy a slab of extra fuzzy, extra crunchy, Riot Grrrl Punk with elements of occult and numerology thrown in, this could be the album you are looking for.
23 is available as a limited-edition vinyl-style CD which includes a digital download or as a digital download. Listen and buy from here.