11/28/2006

Wax On Radio Part II.

The more time that I've spent reflecting over the post I made a few days ago about Wax On Radio's "Exposition" album, the more I feel like I missed the point in my attempt to put into words just what it is that continues to draw me back to that album. I spent too much time talking about song structure and antecedents of their sound, and don't get me wrong, those things are important, but they will just lie there like so much dead matter without being infused with emotion. And see, "Exposition" is not just infused but saturated with emotion, so of course it does not lie there like dead matter at all, but instead takes over my entire world when I'm listening to it (which is often, to say the least). But for some reason, I neglected all of that in my last entry. There's only one thing to do to correct this injustice--write about it again. Get it right this time.

Wax On Radio remind me in some ways of the now-defunct Louisville band Elliott. They played melodic rock music, and while they added some of the same post-hardcore power-pop energy to their sound that Wax On Radio adds to theirs, you certainly couldn't call them heavy by any means. However, when they performed live, guitarist Jay Palumbo got so into the songs he was playing that he quickly gained a reputation for onstage intensity. During the loud, driving sections of the song, he would react to the chord changes and crescendoes of the music as if they were physically buffetting him around the stage like a gale-force wind. He swung his guitar, tossed his long black hair, dropped to his knees, jumped in the air, generally was a blur of motion throughout their sets. And if you'd heard Elliott on record first, you might be surprised for a few seconds to see this sort of performance from their guitarist. It didn't seem like the kind of music a person would rock out that intensely to. But the more you listened, both in the live setting and back at home replaying the records, the more you could see the sense it made. The crescendoes really were that intense, the loud, dramatic moments that powerful. Once you'd seen Jay Palumbo go nuts while performing the songs, it was hard to even listen to them without feeling that same energy coursing through your own body. It was hard to sit still.

Wax On Radio may not have that intense of a stage presence, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did. The crescendoes here are every bit as intense, and while Wax On Radio are a bit more likely to draw on extended quiet passages than Elliott were, this merely serves to make the loud sections that much more powerful when they arrive. There's a point about five minutes into the song "Remembering" where the band has gone from a slow, subdued bridge into a long, quiet interlude, then begun slowly to build back to the volume of the song's earlier chorus. Right before going back into that chorus, they pause, and hold the song on the brink for two entire seconds of silence. When everything comes back in on the very chorus that the listener's been waiting for since three minutes into the song, it's a huge payoff, the kind that makes your body want to explode into a million pieces that will fly in all directions. The emotion in Mikey Russell's voice at that moment is a lot of what creates this effect, seeming to carry the weight of a loneliness too big to describe in words.

This is the story of the entire album, really: it's nothing more than an hour-long, many-faceted epic of loneliness and the vain striving for a connection with someone other than oneself. This might not be what all or even most of the lyrics are about--keep in mind, I don't have a lyric sheet. None of the words that I've been able to understand have specifically contradicted this interpretation, but I'm far from being able to decipher all of them. However, this is the feeling I get from the music. "When In Rome"'s quiet, mournfully drawn-out ending paints a picture of someone leaving a party while it's still in full swing, and reminds me of the many times that I've done this myself, walking out through backyards and alleys, finding my way home alone, listening to the sounds of crickets chirping. The reverb-heavy production on the record makes moments like this seem to echo, bounce back to the listener from faraway mountaintops, and in doing so not only increases the epic feel of the music but gives a sense of solitude, isolation, that is palpable.

However, despite all of this, throughout the album runs a thread of hope. When the end finally comes, with that amazing, never-ending final chorus, what we're hearing is the triumph of hope in the face of overwhelming despair. It's as if the whole album has been building towards this final triumphant moment, and the payoff is beyond satisfying, instead more like a sensory overload, especially in the first few seconds of the chorus. When it begins, the vocals are relatively low in the mix, taking a back seat to the instruments pounding out this intense, amazing melody. However, as it goes on, and as Mikey Russell's voice is joined by the choir repeating his line from the opening track, the vocals slowly begin to overwhelm the music, growing louder as the music fades out. Soon the band is playing at a noticeably lower volume than the choir is singing, and the human spirit's essential belief in the possibility of a better tomorrow seems to be uplifted along with their voices. In the end, even they must fade out, but they do so with a feeling that, even though we're not hearing it, somewhere a choir will continue singing these words forever, bearing all of the lonely, isolated people throughout the world on their shoulders, keeping them afloat even through their worst times.

Sail on quick, fly past the world. Find me a love.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good explaination. Your view is very well respected by me, they are an amazing band that I will continue to listen to for as long as I live.

12:06 AM  
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2:51 AM  

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