Like fellow Oakland band Hunx and His Punx, Wax Idols belong to a next-wave of pop punk that has little to do with Warped Tours, Hot Topic, Broadway musicals, etc. Former Punx guitarist and current Wax Idol multi-instrumentalist Hether Fortune aka Heather Fedewa draws darkly from a tradition of aestheticized yet accessible blare that evokes ’90s Brit-poppers Elastica as well as Wire, the ’70s art-punk originators who inspired Elastica and whose “Sand in My Joints” gets reverently covered here.
As this and their name suggests, there’s plenty of history here: The social observation and rebellion songs “Human Condition” and “Bad Future” could’ve been penned circa 1977 in the first flush of anarchy. But just as early Clash anthems like “White Riot” have once again rung true in a year of widespread U.K. looting and growing U.S. economic protest, Wax Idols’ sense of unease feels contemporary. More often than not, it’s played out in relationship drama: In “Dilno,” Fortune plays with her toys and dreams of spit and sweat; in “Grey Area,” she finds love between the margins; and in “Gold Sneakers,” her stutter and handclaps tap out a la-la-la-lover’s Morse code. As on “All Too Human,” her introductory and equally essential non-LP single, Fortune speaks most forcefully with her hooks; they’re sharp, and draw as much blood as they conceal.