Wax Idols: 5 Albums That Changed My Life
Oakland’s Wax Idols is gearing up to release their fourth album, Happy Ending, on May 16. To herald its release, the band’s Hether Fortune and Rachel Travers waxed poetic on some albums that changed them.
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The Cure, The Cure
A lot of people overlook this album, their 12th full length released in 2004, in favor of the more nostalgic ’80s-early ’90s stuff, but this one deserves a lot more accolades than it typically receives. For me, it was massively important because it was The Cure album that came out while I was a teenager and at my most impressionable age.
I remember getting the CD from Best Buy at the same time I bought Cursive’s The Ugly Organ (I was a year late on that one; I lived in middle of nowhere). I listened to them back to back when I got home and had a hard time believing that The Cure were older than my parents. The music felt so fresh and urgent, on par energetically with all of the bands I was into at the time, but the music itself was so much better than anything else coming out.
I’d been listening to The Cure my entire life because my mother had me in 1987 at the age of 18, and she LOVES the Cure. It was one of the few things we could still agree on when I was a teenager. So, needless to say, it was wild to me that they released a current album that fit right in with all of the other modern bands I was into. It almost felt like they (The Cure) were popping in just to remind all these baby bands who was boss.
Then, Curiosa happened and included bands like Interpol, Cursive and Thursday, cementing the intuitive feeling I had about the connection between all of this music. That was when I started really seeing all of the threads between generations of music and began to understand that being a songwriter was like being a part of an eternal conversation. It also taught me at a young age that you don’t have to be young by society’s standards to remain relevant and important as an artist. You just have to keep doing the work. ‘Before Three’ is one of the best damn songs that Robert Smith has ever written, and he was in his mid-40s at the time. - Hether Fortune
As a kid growing up in rural Michigan, there weren’t very many highly visible non-male bodied icons for me to latch onto whose music and energy resonated specifically with all of the pain and anger I was carrying. I found plenty as I got into my teens and started going to record stores, mining Napster and driving for hours to get to shows every weekend, but had it not been for Shirley Manson’s looming presence on MTV during the late ’90s/early 2000s (all fangs and melancholy), I don’t know if I would’ve been inspired to go hunting the way that I did. Hearing these songs on the radio all the time and seeing the music videos left a huge mark that has become more apparent to me as I’ve gotten older.
I can still listen to this album from start to finish and be thrilled by every second of it. Songs like ‘Queer,’ ‘Only Happy When It Rains,’ ‘Vow’ and ‘Stupid Girl’ all living on one album is almost obnoxious. It’s a bitch slap of a record. From a production standpoint, it’s one of the best-sounding things I’ve ever heard. We 100% referenced Butch Vig’s style while working on our new album. It’s something we didn’t even have to do intentionally, as many of the albums he produced are so deeply ingrained into us collectively as a band. It’s the music that raised us. – HF
Kate Bush, Hounds of Love
This album marked a huge crossroad for me: when lyrics went from merely relatable to an emotional journey. Bush’s exposition explored a master class in the vulnerability and introspection that I struggled with in my awkward formative years. From immersive, abstract soundscapes to bleak minimalism, this album became more than just another record to me: it became a living, breathing work of art, something I had not yet experienced with music.
Initially entranced by the rolling toms and hypnotic chorus of the first track, I was ensnared by the thematic complexities and the unrestrained landscape she creates both lyrically and sonically. – Rachel Travers
Pretty sure I’ve listened to this album at least once a week for the past 15 years, maybe more. It has taken up residence in my car at some point in the last year and has become a permanent fixture in my morning commute.
There’s something so alluring about those gritty lyrics, camouflaged in Anderson’s falsetto, as they pirouette through Butler’s grinding, percussive guitar. Listening to this album, chanting the lyrics from ‘Pantomime Horse,’ has the power to expunge every emotion I stuff deep down in my stomach and cleanses my overwrought brain of all anxiety. - RT
Them Are Us Too, Remain
I cried every single time I saw this band live, and I am completely enveloped and transported whenever I listen to this record. It is an audio emotional outpouring pretty much unparalleled by any other current music.
I feel honored to have lived and been active in music when this band appeared, fully formed, with some of the most beautiful shit I’ve ever heard. The very definition of life-changing. Life-affirming, really. – HF
(Photo credit: Matthew Vincent)
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