Blesst Chest is not the band you pay twenty-five dollars to see at the nearest club on a Thursday night, standing in the front row cheering and singing along, a little bit off key because you’re a little bit drunk. Blesst Chest is the band for whom you throw five at the door and then observe, while nodding and nursing a lukewarm PBR, as they thrash around the basement of a 1940’s house. The house is on a street with a name like Sycamore Lane. You get a black “X” drawn on the back of your hand when you come in through the side door. And it’s a Tuesday.
The Portland-born trio likes to keep it weird. Like, makes-Portlandia-seem-tame kind of weird. Artist, filmmaker and Blesst Chest member Jay Winebrenner has been described (somewhat affectionately) as having “a keen eye for absurdist, low-budget what-the-fuckery.” Though meant to summarize his strange, mesmerizing advertisements for various Oregon establishments, the quote translates quite successfully to Winebrenner’s other efforts.
Wish We Were There is a stubbornly lo-fi, unapologetically artistic venture wherein the band throws itself aggressively in all directions so you never know where a song will end up once it’s begun. Each song is a tangent in its own right. “I Can’t Fuck You” is the perfect example: despite opening on a breezy, twangy riff, it evolves into down-to-earth rock chaos and finally fades into the gentle sound of chimes. “T-Boned In The Daewoo” is just as colorful, if a bit more spacey, while “Youtube Tutorial Soundtrack” is a charmingly dischordant study in mathy rhythms.
The music video for “Sebadad” is vaporwave-meets-BDSM nightmare fuel that seems at odds with the song itself, a thrumming prog-rock jumble. Like the noseless smiling banana-men of WWWT‘s cover art, there are so many things about this video that make me violently uncomfortable. But at the same time, it’s impossible to look away. (“Sebadad” appears on Jay Winebrenner’s channel alongside other intriguing offerings, such as the bad trip that is “Def Gary” and, a metaphorical middle finger to commercialism, “Dorito Man Visits Suburbia.” I won’t ruin those for you, it’s better to experience them yourself.)
Blesst Chest tests how far art can go before it stops making sense. There are no lyrics to guide us through the album, no unifying melody or tone. There’s no escape rope. You end up either reeling yourself back in and breathing a sigh of relief, or forging ahead blindly through the dark, nonsensical insanity that is Wish We Were There. Whether you like it or not, WWWT is one hell of a ride.