Wax Idols - Happy Ending (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Wax Idols

Happy Ending (2018)


If you haven't heard Wax Idols just yet, I'd advise you to take in their last LP American Tragic. It sets the stage perfectly for Happy Ending, the band's fourth record, but more so, these two albums (and don't get me wrong, all their albums are pretty solid) paint a lush musical landscape that manifests as some of the best post-punk music I've ever heard. They're like a two-part movie to be honest, but what makes Happy Ending stand even taller is that the band finds itself weaving their most melodic, hook-filled and yes, mainstream music to date. Only this time, it's with a much more cleaned-up sound, and one that finds them playing to their strengths more than ever.

I've been listening to this for a long time and the best way I could describe it is the second coming of Shirley Manson thanks to lead vocalist, Heather Fortune. In fact, I really feel for Wax Idols because if they were in the time of Garbage, Hole and even the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as you young folk say, they'd be pure money. Tracks like "Too Late" and "Mausoleum" are prime examples of such '90s rock anthems; but the tribute runs even deeper. Or older I should say. 

You can sense influences from bands like The Smiths, Depeche Mode and New Order, and it's no surprise given their background. I saw them in Charlotte a year ago with Thursday, Touche Amore and Basement, and actually chatted with the band. Heather Fortune mentioned how much Geoff Rickly (Thursday's lead singer) helped them and in these songs, that kindred spirit stands out. Not just in delivery but in terms of writing style. But don't let me stray... because they're all about The Cure too -- which is what I was trying to get at all along! "Devour" feels like Shirley Manson sang for The Cure (I kid you not) and it gets even better with the Robert Smith influence on "Scream" -- a hazy, jagged and fast-paced that's as catchy as they come. And yeah, it's one of their best songs ever. 

Then there's some Euro-flair stuck in for good measure -- a la Animal Youth -- with the shimmery essence of "Belong" leaving you head-bopping for days. The same goes for "Heaven Knows" and as all these tracks collide, not too aggressively I might add (which is a really good thing), it feels like emo/shoegaze/goth linked up and formed a new genre. Simple yet musically inventive. Rachel Travers on drums is amazing, as are the soul-cutting guitars and thick, crunchy basslines from the '80s to complement a band that's focused and comfy in their skin. And boy, does that confidence translate on the mic. What I also admire is that Fortune's novel here is deeply personal, as opposed to being more political -- the latter of which I was really waiting on because of their stand for feminism etc. from the time we spoke. Nonetheless, it's straight-up heart and soul on these new songs and I really couldn't ask for more.

By the time the record ends with "Missed Call" -- which comes off like an acoustic voice note -- you can't help but appreciate Fortune's lyrics, her voice and her exposed 'frailty'. She reminds you that love's not a game you can referee, but then again, so too is life. And through these words, she makes it clear that in moving past the tragedies of old, hey, we just might find that happy ending.