Release Date: Mar 26, 2013
Record label: Slumberland
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Garage Punk, Noise Pop
There’s been a fair amount of chat recently about the ‘’90s revival’ we’re supposedly having at the moment. Kids everywhere are donning indecent levels of tartan ‘n’ tie-dye while raving on about Nirvana’s debut album Bleach as if to prove they’re not just Nevermind-owning bandwagon-jumpers. But behind all the velvet scrunchies and Big Muff distortion pedals, an earlier point in music is having its own moment – albeit a less attention-grabbing one.
Wax Idols underwent some major changes between the release of their debut album, No Future, and its follow-up, Discipline + Desire. Leader Hether Fortune enlisted a full-time band to support her, and also revealed her involvement in the fetish/BDSM community as a dominatrix. These developments make the album's sound more understandable, but no less dramatic: No Future's shouty, somewhat samey punk has been replaced by pitch-black post-punk.
Built around motorik drums and forceful post-punk guitars, Oakland four-piece Wax Idols’ second album could easily have fallen into the trap of being too repetitive. From the beginnings of dark opener ‘Stare Back’ and the softer front of ‘AD RE:IAN’, though, it’s a record served up with just the right balance of aggression and harmony, of melody and hard-hitting chug. On ‘Formulae’, all of these elements whip and snap through Hether Fortune’s menacing moans and whispers.
Two of the more interesting punk rock records to surface this year come from female-dominated acts drawing heavily from Bauhaus’s taut, aggressive postpunk side and the chilly psychedelia of early Siouxsie and the Banshees: Savages’ Silence Yourself and Wax Idols’ Discipline & Desire. Whether that’s the manifestation of something rattling around pop’s mass subconscious, or just an indicator that right now is a good time in the retro cycle to revive the few years before and after goth’s initial emergence from the first wave of UK punk remains to be seen. Silence Yourself has been attracting more attention, but Discipline & Desire should also be essential listening for anyone in a gothic mood.
A little over a year ago, in reviewing Wax Idols debut full-length No Future I stated that there was trouble lurking around the corner with Hether Fortune and her post-punk outfit Wax Idols. Ramshackle in that loveable, garage-y sense, No Future offered a glimpse into the psyche of one of Twitter’s most prolific musicians. Her middle-finger-in-the-air attitude was on display for everyone to hear, but in a sense, No Future was only Fortune’s first punch.
It’s easy to wax poetic about The Velvet Underground, from Lou Reed’s loaded stare behind Ray-Bans to Andy Warhol-curated freak conventions. Often dubbed the forefathers of punk, the Velvets were undoubtedly one of the first bands to not only embrace but celebrate the underbelly of human desire — fetishization, bondage, and sadomasochism — in a cacophony of textured white noise. California’s Wax Idols, led by magnetic frontwoman (and occasional dominatrix by profession) Hether Fortune, resemble the Velvets in their penchant for projecting S&M as unifying concepts through psychedelic-surged punk rock, whose presence oscillates somewhere between the garage and center stage.