If you’re looking for a repeat of Wax Idols last record, No Future, then you should probably take a second to reflect before you press play. There are hints, though slight, of the band of old, but Hether Fortune and her band mates have come to give you something entirely new with Discipline & Desire; it’s refreshing to see a group push themselves, no matter what the risks.
“Stare Back” immediately puts you on your back foot, opening with discordant noise and a bubbling post-punk bass line. Fortune soon enters with an echoing wail. The repetition of “stare back” is met each time with an emphatic drum hit. Swirling vocals come in and out of the foreground, but what’s most noticeable is the tracks exploration into a noisier punk realm. But, just because Wax Idols have opted for a heavier-handed approach doesn’t mean there aren’t inherent pop hooks, which you’ll find immediately following the album’s opener on “Sound of a Void.” Personally, I love the way the guitar parts work together, weaving a pristine pop hook between the distorted wall of guitar noise. Also, the driving delivery of the vocals approached the anthemic attitude that was present on past efforts. They keep that attitude up with “When It Happens” by using perfectly placed backing vocals, which balance Ms. Fortune’s guttural singing. Three songs in and you can see that despite a darker approach, there’s still a knack for infectious tunes.
I think the biggest success of Discipline & Desire is the group’s ability to travel back and forth between approachable pop and discordant post-punk. The perfect song for that hypothesis is “Ad Re Ian,” which really lives in both worlds. The verses are possibly some of the most accessible and poppy moments Fortune has put together under the Wax Idols moniker, but the choruses represent the band knack for blasting off into dangerous punk jams. Still, holding through it all is this faint dreamy vocal that supersedes every established notion; it’s probably one of my favorite moments on the record.
But, if I had to pick a favorite to claim as my own, I think I’m going to stick with “Elegua.” It’s the closest thing to a ballad that lives on Discipline & Desire; I think if also demonstrates the vocal qualities of Hether, which people often overlook. There’s a gentle quality to her delivery, almost a whisper at times, that fits perfectly with the haunting meandering of the guitar, constantly being accentuated by firing of snare hits. About 2.5 minutes in, the song continues to forge its own path, pushing towards a swirling closing that really encapsulates the idea that the Wax Idols have continued to push themselves in every aspect of their sound.
In my mind, it would have been really easy for Wax Idols to retrace their steps from No Future, which I consider a great record, although having spent weeks with this new effort, I’m glad they didn’t go that route. Discipline & Desire definitely darkens the mood at time, but the group’s ability to explore their own sound has left us, the listeners, with so much to be grateful for. It’s angry, sometimes ferocious even, but it also has a softer underbelly that will allow this album to sink deep into your heart.