Show Review and Photography by Erin Christie
Amidst an uptick discussions of the early aughts NYC garage rock scene largely inspired by the 2022 release of the Meet Me in the Bathroom book documentary, English rock band Wunderhorse’s return to Mercury Lounge on June 3, 2023 — the location where many bands of that aforementioned genre made their debut — is fitting, as music-connoisseurs usher in a new era of swirling, propulsive indie-rock while simultaneously recognizing the impact of the era before. Even for bands such as Wunderhorse who didn’t plant their roots in the States, the impossible-to-ignore overlooking shadow cast by those 00s bands (from The Strokes to Yeah Yeah Yeahs and LCD Soundsystem) still carved the lane on which they, and other contemporaries, currently travel. And so, their visit this time around is entirely fitting and welcomed with open, eager arms.
Wunderhorse, led by songwriter Jacob Slater (formerly of Dead Pretties), shared their debut album, Cub, last year to acclaim from outlets such as Rolling Stone, NME, DORK, Billboard, Alt Citizen, and DIY Magazine. Among its tracklisting is standout track “Leader Of The Pack,” which the band opened their most recent Mercury Lounge set with. With an almost alt-country feel contrastingly strung along with a sing-along chorus and the makings of a perfect classic rock banger, the aforementioned track has been stuck in my head on loop since being introduced to it during the band’s slot opening for Fontaines D.C. on their last U.S. leg.
The set continued with a collection of brutally honest, sentimental, and poetic pieces of their discography, including the epic and celebratory “Teal.” Amidst its portrayal of a turbulent and all-too-real life spent ricocheting between feeling absolutely bogged down and awestruck by the beauty of the world, the crowd appropriately chimed in with harmonious clapping in time with the hi-hat. Later, without a capo in their possession, the band couldn’t fulfill the audience request for “17,” instead opting for “Mantis” which spiralled into an interlude of fuzzed-out instrumental bliss.
Among my favorite tracks they performed that evening is the utterly heart-wrenching but impossibly catchy “Girl Behind The Glass,” which sees Slater baring all while reminiscing on a lost connection. Tracks such as this also perfectly exhibit his range from soft-spoken crooning to open-throated belting. Another set inclusion, “Purple,” similarly displays a more tender side of the act’s musical stylings, retaining a massive sonic feel alongside an air of romanticism.
Altogether, Wunderhorse is truly one of the most exciting bands I’ve come across within the last year, and with their upward trajectory already fast-moving, it’s certain that the next chapter they’ll be embarking on will only continue their hero’s journey.