Back in the spring, Wax Idols released their debut single "All Too Human/William Says," and I musta listened to that damn thing a hundred times. The A side was one of the best pure pop songs I've heard in a good long time, with its gargantuan 80s college rock guitar riffs and bratty multi-tracked harmonies. It was pure punk ROCK in spirit, without resorting to bash-it-out trad thrash cliches, and stuck out like a sore thumb among the legions of sub-par Black Lips rip-offs that started to overwhelm the underground rock n' roll scene with suffocating blankets of mediocrity. Wax Idols, for all intents and purposes, is the work of Heather "HETHER FORTUNE" Fedewa, and she's the kind of punk rock hero we don't see much of anymore: a brash, loud-mouthed, tack-spitting, zine-making, big-hearted firebrand equally at home writing manifestos as she is kicking someone's ass.
It seems like these days, the internet has turned into a giant circle-jerk of positivity for artistic types, but Fedewa frequently takes people to task on Facebook and Twitter, railing against lazy bloggers for comparing every female-fronted band with reverbed harmonies to Phil Spector's girl groups, and for playing up her connections to Bare Wires and Hunx & His Punx for lack of anything better to say. It might seem smug and catty to some, but the lady has a point. There's been like 65 people floating through the lineups of those two bands in the last few years, and none of them had a hand in "All Too Human." Hell, if I'd written an insta-classic banger like that and played all the instruments myself, I'd be shouting that fact to everyone I know. There's far too many "writers" out there who semi-creatively regurgitate a one sheet, toss up a couple links, and call it day, and they deserve to be called on their shit. No one's making money or glory from blogging as far as I can tell, and you can find all the music you want for free anyway, so if you don't give a fuck about what you're writing about, and there's no ulterior motives, then why not just pack it in?! You're sucking up valuable bandwidth and time from people who actually believe in what they're saying, and this debut LP from Wax Idols definitely has the courage of its convictions.
No Future is one of the best albums of the year, and a big part of it is that Fedewa, unlike a lot of her contemporaries, actually sings in key most of the time. Her voice isn't slight and flat, it's a full-throated howl that evokes heavy hitters like Deborah Harry, Penelope Houston, and Joan Jett, the yelp and screech of Carla Bozulich of the Geraldine Fibbers, and even a bit of the ol' (ulp) Courtney Love at times. The steady strum of "Nothing At All" sounds like an outtake off Live Through This with more lived-in swagger, and Love is another artist that had to deal with haters and ignoramuses who tried to shift credit to others. FORTUNE/Fedewa is that freakin' GOOD, dude, and when she places that voice on top of the glam-dusted Runaways stomp of "Bad Future" and shouts "You're not free to do as you please! We're all enemies! You're not free!" over a gut-punching drum and down-stroke march, the result is a rabble-rousing call to action that's like a wake-up call to all the bands that play it close to the vest and stick to safer or more obtuse subjects to avoid criticism and scrutiny.
No one wants to write anthems anymore, no one wants to hurt some feelings, no one wants to step on anyone's toes to make a point, no one wants to step up and speak out. Guts and passion are in short supply, and the silence is ready for voices of dissent to make a whole lot of fucking NOISE. In a world where Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon can get divorced and the fiery loudmouths of my youth can be turned into placid NPR correspondents and VH1 documentary talking heads, who can whatever percentage I'm supposed to be in look to for ideas?! People get really excited about the 20th anniversary of Nevermind, and kinda sorta gloss over the fact that Kurt Cobain blew his fool head off because it beat the monotony of sitting on talk show couches explaining the deep meaning of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for infinity and beyond. He learned that you don't look back like Dylan in the movies, and they're after your name and likeness, not your words and music.
It's not exactly clear what Fedewa is so fucking pissed off about, aside from the usual distaste with the government and lack of satisfaction with day-to-day life, but those emotions have been the subject matter of a hundred classic rock n' roll songs, so why fiddle with the formula? Besides, inarticulate rage is the BEST rage, because there's nothing as intimidating as someone who's so angry that they can't be bothered to explain WHY. I've heard the song a whole bunch, but I still don't know what's so special about Mick Jagger's cloud, and why he wants me to get off of it so badly, but I know that he's vulnerable and pissed and not in the mood to argue semantics at the current time. "Human Condition," the grinding opener of side two, rides a Flipper-esque plod and repeats the mantra "We get down, we get high, we get born, then we die. This is the human condition." It's not Camus or anything, but its existential angst says more than the average internet philosopher can muster in ten times as many words.
With all this anger and rage, you need a balancing dose of sunshine, so it's no surprise that some of the best moments on No Future come when Fedewa turns down the vitriol and lets her softer side surface and rub it's squinty, light-starved eyes. Lead-off single "Gold Sneakers" is a punk rock love song that should be a mixtape staple for a good long while, with a plaintive chorus of "I love you" stretched and twisted around the layers of riffs and hand-claps that evokes the nervous energy of classic Buzzcocks. Better yet is the closing track "Grey Area," which is such a great song that it threw me for a loop the first time I heard it, leading to compulsively lifting up the needle and replaying it at least a dozen times. Remember when I mentioned Debbie Harry earlier? This tune brings that influence to the front, with a dreamy, ringing guitar riff and a punchy bridge that for real sounds like a classic Blondie hit, with a bit of the poppier moments of Siouxsie & The Banshees thrown in for good measure. Like I said, she's that freaking good, dude...
So here you have nine killer original tracks and a note-perfect cover of Wire's "Sand In My Joints" that point to Fedewa's love of turn-of-the-80s post-punk, which would make No Future a perfect 10 out of 10 if I'd bother to attach a meaningless rating to the thing. It's a kick in the balls for the MOR indie rock dweebs out there that cling to tired 70s singer-songwriter retreads and dismiss anything more challenging as juvenile and unlistenable. As I finish writing this, Hether Fortune is debating the merits of the Cure's later albums with commenters on her Facebook page, and smacking down The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. When was the last time you saw Ben Gibbard do that?!