[sic] Magazine

Wax Idols – Discipline & Desire

Separated by the biggest pond on earth, but with many a contemporary parallel to draw, the Bay Area’s Wax Idols and London’s Savages probably ought to be sharing headlines, though it seems the latter must have access to a better hype-generating machine in this regard. There’s no doubt they both have access to the same time machine however, its dial apparently incapable of escape from the darker edges of the 80s.

Still, Discipline & Desire is marginally more friendly than the Wax Idols debut, its wiry (pun intended) inflections cut with generous hook levels, such as those that can be heard on the entirely danceable single “Sound Of A Void”. Even though front-woman Hether Fortune has rounded out the line-up to full band status since that debut, it’s still very much her in charge – a position she enjoys. Part-time dominatrix – yes, you read that right; reappraise the album title if you want proof – Fortune retains the aggressive sexual edge of her early work on Discipline & Desire and, here, the frantic “Formulae” is an entirely befitting example.

Elsewhere, this biographical curio is cast aside though. There’s very little eroticism to be found amongst the dark echoes of “Stare Back”, for example, in which Fortune adopts her best Siouxsie Sioux stance, snarling in the face of the track’s drum rips and bludgeoning groove. Later, the near-spoken “AD RE:Ian” begins by lulling you into thinking Fortune has gone soft, only then to grab you by the underbelly, exploding with propulsive passages of downright stygian post-punk. The determined chime of “The Cartoonist” also sets a breathless pace, its reverb-soaked lines blurring the vision and bringing memories of The Organ to the fore.

Far from vulnerable, there’s nevertheless a Gothic power-ballad of sorts too in the form of album centrepiece “The Scent Of Love”. Its evocative bass-work is pure Robert Smith and its greyed out chug totally irresistible. Speaking of power ballads, the chorus in the relatively carefree “Dethrone” somehow manages to recall the wonderful excesses of the Top Gun soundtrack circa “Danger Zone”, and it does so without a shred of compromise.

Perhaps the only real criticism that can be levelled at Discipline & Desire , other than its clear period fetishism of course, is that it is often not quite nasty enough. The creepy closer, “Stay In”, for example, has its sharp edges smeared out to indistinction by Tamaryn -like swirls of woozy shoegaze. Maybe we have Mark Burgess of The Chameleons ‘ co-production to thank for this – and thank him we still should because Discipline & Desire is still a great record. Wondering about what might have been if Fortune had been allowed to really punish the levels though is a very exciting proposition indeed.

Advised downloads: “The Scent Of Love” and “The Cartoonist”

~Discipline & Desire is released June 3rd 2013 on Slumberland .~