Vol.1 - I Don't Hate the Wush Wush!
Something old, something new, and something from Blue October
A Song - “Hate Me” by Blue October
This week I told my partner Will that Blue October yee’d so Alex G could haw. He loves Alex G and I love Will, so I try to listen now and again even though it’s not my thing. I listen to music mostly for the vibe - I’m more interested in how a song feels than how it necessarily sounds - and Alex G reminds me of driving around Bel Air listening to 101.9 in the early 2000s. It’s all about pure nostalgia, simple catchy melodies, and brightly strummed acoustic guitars. Think Sheryl Crow, the Wallflowers, Gin Blossoms, and sure, why not, Blue October.
Though Will disagreed with my statement, he agreed to listen to Blue October on the weekend drive from Dallas to Austin. We started with “Into the Ocean” (a banger), then queued up their most popular song on Spotify, “Hate Me”.
I’ll be the first to admit, this song is downright cheesy. Still, I can’t help but sing along every time I hear it on the radio, to go full-on theater kid and belt the chorus every time it comes around (the verses are too wordy for karaoke, note to self). The song is all about the lead singer, Justin Furstenfeld - his drug addiction, a ruined relationship, and his resonant, growly voice front and center. It’s self-indulgent, melodramatic, and precisely what I needed in 2006.
It opens with a crowd singing a familiar tune via voicemail - “If you’re sleeping are you dreaming, if you’re dreaming are you dreaming of me”? It’s not the song we’re about to hear but another, older Blue October song called “Calling You”, released four years earlier, followed by a concerned message from Justin’s mom. The voicemail thing isn’t new - it shows up in a lot of songs, actually - but the thing where they sing an old song in a new song, that shit, as far as I know, was and is revolutionary.
The rest of the song is prescriptive pop music - verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, softer chorus add cello. The verses are rhythmic, weaving in and out of the drum line and stabilized by a strummed acoustic guitar and doubled vocal. With each chorus - “Hate me today!!!” - the tension releases; a sanctimonious melody is delivered with a crunch, a distorted lead guitar serving as an exclamation point at the end of each phrase.
The bridge, like most bridges, in my opinion, is an eye roller. With a guitar walk down we sink into a slightly different mode and the worst lyrics of the song: “like a baby boy I never was a man, till I saw your blue eyes cry and I held your face in my hands”. Then, the song shows its softer side. It’s just Justin, an acoustic guitar, and a cello reciting the chorus like a whisper as someone walks away, gently escorting the listener to the end of the song. A few hits of the toms might have you craving one last, big refrain, but instead, we linger on “for you, for you, for you” as the voicemail fades back in. Justin’s mom shouts “Hey Justin! Hey Justin! Hey Justin!” which, if you listen close, kinda starts to sound like “hate yourself! hate yourself! hate yourself!”.
I never regret listening to a song that feels like home, even if it is cheesy. Blue October reminds me of the power of a catchy melody and a strummed guitar, and how sometimes it just feels really good to roll down the windows and scream-sing a silly song with someone you love.
A Cup - Black Honey Wush Wush, Ethiopia, Greater Goods Coffee (unreleased)
Wushwush is a teeny tiny village in the Keffa Zone of Ethiopia, and Wush Wush (two words) is the name of a rare variety of coffee you’ll find growing wild across the region. It’s highly sought after for its soft, sickly sweet flavor profile - some have even called it the new geisha (which also originated in Keffa). Almost 30 years ago, coffee producers transported the Ethiopian heirloom to Colombia, where a similar terroir was matched with access to more advanced equipment and processing techniques. These days, most Wush Wush is Colombian-grown.
I had my first Wush Wush at Proud Mary in South Austin. It was an anaerobic natural, grown in Colombia and brewed with boiling water on an Origami dripper by a good friend of mine. It was saccharine and pillowy; like gnawing a tuft of cotton candy off a sugar-coated finger.
My second was this week at Barton Springs Mill. On Monday, I met with their education director Kimberly to prepare for a bread-tasting/coffee pairing event we’re hosting next year at Greater Goods. I was supposed to bring some coffee to pair with four different loaves of Irish soda bread, all made with different kinds of wheat, but I didn’t plan ahead so I had to grab whatever we had that was already roasted at the warehouse that morning.
One of those coffees happened to be a fresh new roast of something I hadn’t tried yet - a black honey-processed Wush Wush from Ethiopia. As soon as I opened the bin, I was hit with an intense peach aroma, like gummy candy. When it was ground, it intensified and into a peach cobbler, some cardamom, and baking spices.
Kimberly and I set up a cupping table of five different coffees - Costa Rica, Guatemala, Wush Wush, another Ethiopia, and Brazil. When we first added water to the grinds, the Wush Wush smelled like any other coffee. I felt the warmth of the steam in my nose first, which always reminds me of sticking my head in the oven to inhale the scent of baking dough - cookies, Pillsbury croissants, my mom’s chicken pot pie.
Around 2 minutes, I smelled a hint of rose and suddenly fruit - peach, I decided again. It was a clear standout against the other four coffees on the table, but it was hard to determine why exactly. The first sip was delicate but round, like homemade whipped cream or a honey simple syrup. It was more like the sun than the Guatemala on its left, more pinkish-orange than the natural Ethiopia on its right.
As it cooled, the acidity sharpened from peach to unripe strawberry. The mouthfeel stayed soft, mellowing into a vanilla pudding. We paired it with the Rouge de Bordeaux, a sweeter wheat with a nutty flavor and spice-like aroma. I went back for thirds, fourths, and fifths of the Wush Wush until my cupping spoon skimmed the grinds that had sunk to the bottom of the bowl, a surefire sign that there was something interesting in that cup.
I’m excited to play more with this coffee. Each cup is bound to be a little different because it’s a wild variety, which is a lot of fun for nerds like me. I might see what kind of acidity I can pull out with a V60, or go buck wild and pull a couple of shots of espresso to see what happens. The possibilities are endless and I’m sure, delicious. We’re expecting to release our Wush Wush sometime in December, so keep an eye out on the Greater Goods website. But this is not work. This is just for fun.