Over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Oakland, CA-based indie rock act Wax Idols, and as you may recall that after 2013’s critically applauded album Discipline + Desire, the band went on hiatus as the band’s founding member, primary songwriter and frontperson Hether Fortune joined the equally acclaimed punk rock band and JOVM mainstays White Lung. That was followed by a heartbreaking and life-altering divorce, which informed much of the material on the band’s critically applauded, third album, 2016’s American Tragic.
Informed by the one of the saddest and most difficult experiences of Fortune’s life, as Fortune explained that American Tragic wasn’t “. . .a sad album.The whole spectrum of grief is represented here — shock, pain, anger, loneliness, and then finding a way to work through all of that, and not only survive, and thrive. That’s what I was going through. I was kind of trying to save myself.” Fortune wrote and recorded every note and every single chord on the album, and as a result, it gives the album a deeply personal vision and point of view in which the heartbreak and grief at the core of the album is visceral and haunting — especially if you’ve ever experienced the dissolution of a long-term romantic relationship, as it evokes the lingering ghosts and resentments, the push and pull of longing, confusion and hatred towards that person, who may well never be in your life again; but it’s all underpinned by the recognition that if you’ve known love, you may know it again and again and again, and that somehow you’ll pick up most of the pieces and move forward. And while thematically being among the most soberING and thoughtful material Fortune has written, the material sonically is reminiscent of Too True-era Dum Dum Girls, Concrete Blonde, Siouxsie and the Banshees and others.
Slated for a May 16, 2018 release through Etruscan Gold Records, Wax Idols long-anticipated forth Monte Vallier-produced album Happy Ending finds the band heading towards new thematic territory as the album finds the band exploring the abstraction and finality of death from philosophical, political and personal perspectives, continuing on the deeply personal tone and vibe of their critically applauded American Tragic. Additionally, the album finds the band continuing onward after a series of lineup changes with the band’s founding member and primary songwriter Fortune backed by Peter Lightning (guitar, bass, organ, piano), Rachel Travers (drums) and Marisa Prieto (bass, backing vocals) and The Mallard’s Greer McGettrick joining the band after the album was recorded.
Now, as you may recall Happy Ending’s first single “Scream” was a rousingly anthemic, 80s-inspired post punk track with with a deeply personal, idiosyncratic vision, complete with some impressive guitar pyrotechnics that make the song seem as though the band drawing influence from Boy and October-era U2. As Fortune told NPR, “Finding inspiration in one of my favorite poems, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ by Dylan Thomas, I used this song as a vehicle to meditate on the concept of free will & how one could choose to exercise it even at the brink of death.” She adds, “The protagonist is someone who is young, madly in love AND desperately wants to live — though they know that they will not. They have chosen to use their final seconds, the only breath in their lungs, to scream out the name of the one that they love.” Interestingly, the album’s latest single the mid tempo power ballad, “Crashing” continues on a similar vein as its predecessor as it’s a swooning and urgent ballad centered around twinkling piano, propulsive drumming and an anthemic hook with some gorgeous guitar work. Much like Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” and others, “Crashing” is the sort of song you can envision earnestly shouting along with a beer held aloft, with the knowledge of life’s fleeting nature.