Discipline and Desire shouldn’t be as surprising as it is. Anyone who heard Wax Idol’s “Schadenfreude” 7” (and I did) would know they were already shifting their sound to something darker and fleshed out then the scrappy punk of No Future. Despite that precursor though, Discipline and Desire is a completely different beast, an excellent expansion of the band’s darker qualities that pushes them into the goth and post-punk realm, and are all the better for it.
All this become immediate to anyone listening once the tight and taught whiplash of opener “Stare Back” kicks in. The guitar riffs, now distortion and reverb coated, fill up nearly the entire track before everything drops as frontmen Heather Fortune’s vocals, now fuller, more pronounced, and a tad more evil, trade off with drum smacks as the bass holds steady in the background to create just the right level of tension. Then everything bursts into these amazing, bursts of noise post-punk. It serves as the perfect opener, not necessarily in style but in tone and the more experimental bent Wax Idol take here compared to No Future. There is “Echo and the Bunnymen if they tried to be the Jesus and Mary Chain” clamor of “Sound of the Void”. The “Dum Dum Girls on speed, playing shoegaze” swirl of “The Cartoonist”. Or the intense, goth band chime of “Dethrone”. Everything on the album is sharper, more personal and haunting, as if Fortune dipped each track into a newly blacked part of her soul before recording them.
More so there is the band’s willingness to showcase atmosphere on the songs. It’s felt throughout the entire album, in large part thanks to the wonderful production that somehow manages to make the band more polished while simultaneously giving everything on the album a murky, hollow quality. But tracks like the icy-queen, goth trance of “Scent of Love” or the banshee like howl and echo of “Elegua”, capture a bleek, gothic air and quality that would never have been imagined on No Future. This is best represented by the band’s centerpiece, the blistering dissonance and euphoria of “AD RE: IAN”. It is the one point of the album were Fortune vocals aren’t tinted by anger or intensity, instead dropping to a near whisper for the verses to communicate the sadness trapped within the track before exploding into a burst of noise (tempered by woodwinds and strings) and collapsing into the emotionally anguish and some of the catchiest hooks on the album. “AD RE: IAN” embodies everything Discipline and Desire is aiming for with this album, and how it can work so well because despite the multiple different directions this song takes, it still wind up being thee catchiest and best song on the album.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few people who pick up Discipline and Desire and hate it. Those going into the record expecting the same modern, ‘70s punk style that Heather Fortune and co. presented on their debut No Future, and getting instead this dark, twisted reinterpretation of ‘80s post-punk, goth, and new wave instead. Those people are fools. Discipline and Desire is deeper, more powerful step forward for the band. A demonstration to how a shift and expansion of a band’s sound can pay off dividends and create something richer and everlasting, despite the well-crafted gloom all the songs are cast under. Discipline and Desire communicates its focus to making a much more intense and personal statement as clear as glass, and is all the greater for it.
Wax Idol's Tumblr
Buy Discipline & Desire here, from Slumberland Records