Waxwing - One for the Ride (Cover Artwork)


One for the Ride (2000)

Second Nature

A few weeks I caught a Murder by Death show. Acoustic strummer Rocky Votolato was one of the opening acts, a man I had only known as the brother of Cody, famed for his guitar work in the Blood Brothers. Votolato had a voice almost incomprehensibly good. I picked up his Suicide Medicine, and promptly fell in love. I looked for other acts he had been in, and lo and behold, brothers did as brothers do and had a band called Waxwing together. I picked up a used copy of One for the Ride for $4.50. I put it on, and was immediately blown away.

Waxwing should have been huge. This is the very best of `90s underground rock (which some call the real emo). In the similar vein of Sunny Day Real Estate's Diary, Mineral's The Power of Failing, Jimmy Eat World's Static Prevails and even later albums such as Further Seems Forever's The Moon Is Down, this album has it all. Taking those records into consideration and adding Cody's technical guitar work lead by Rocky's perfectly rolling vocals and you've got something really special, and incredibly overlooked.

One for the Ride rolls between pop and depravity with hooks and riffs one after another, creating simple yet elegant, near organic music. Even in the simplicity of "Kill the Messenger," there's a nervous tension behind every note, with the vocals remaining between questioning fragility and accusing sincerity. However, although the songs are often sprawling and lengthy, they never overextend their stay and become boring.

The album has many subtle differences between the songs to keep them interesting, but the vocals really contain them well. The southern twang to "There WIll Be a Reckoning" comes right after the almost coldly technical "Where Did the Time Go?," but neither sound out of place. The poppiest track, "All of My Prophets" precedes the fragile and saddening title track, but they all are held together by a band that is very good at proclaiming individuality through their music.

The biggest problem with the album seems to be the lyrics. The writing style is often lopsided, with Rocky's very literal imagery often coming across as trite. While this album is six years old and his writing has obviously gotten better, it still seems like it wouldn't have taken much editing to make things ring a bit more. It's not a huge detraction, but a couple times it sounds a bit strange. Sometimes he hits gold, with the lines from the aformentioned first song;

All of my prophets were the singers of sad songs / so it's no wonder that I've been the victim of / a wavering faith.
However, sometimes it just doesn't work as well. While his sentiment and passion are behind the vocals, and you can tell he really means what he writes, his style just makes you think of some nerdy overpassionate environmentalist middle school girl. Example;
Food costs money and kids gotta eat something. / If a farmer's work is honest, the contribution won't go unnoticed. / I wish I were a farmer, to be satisfied with what these hands have grown. / No food of mine sits in the bellies of others. / Instead, this strange secret twisting which each only knows.
But, like I said, it's not often and it's a minor distraction. If you're a fan at all of the albums I've previously mentioned, I really think you'd dig Waxwing. The music isn't overproduced, it isn't filled with flair or effects; it's just a solid rock album that has made me a huge fan of this band.