What screams "punk rock" more than bold block letters announcing “NO FUTURE” as an album’s title? For Wax Idols, the solo (with a little help from some friends) vehicle of Bay Area artist-around-town Hether Fortune, that title may prove somewhat misleading, as the 11 tracks within rely on a less-than-even mixture of sneering nihilism and noisy pop hooks. This debut LP comes after the regular amount of much-lauded string of limited-edition 7” and cassette releases, and comes equipped with the type of upgrade in production values that either helps lo-fi bedroom garage bands or buries them.
Luckily, Wax Idols benefit from peeling away a layer of grime, and the high points shine brightly. “Gold Sneakers” injects a heart-palpitating dose of jangle into an almost mid-'90s riot grrrl style-angular guitar pattern. The vocals have the most personality on tracks like this where Fortune comes off like an amped-up Runaways-era Joan Jett, clearly more focused on having fun than anything else. Elsewhere, stand-out tracks like “Nothing at All” or “Grey Area” trade in energetic punk attitude for understated tension. By turns, the loud-soft dynamics and venerable melancholia bring to mind Courtney Love's most naked Live Through This-era anxiety attacks or Wire’s later period introspective post-punk.
The pendulum, however, swings wide between Wax Idols' most intriguing moments and their most generic. The garage rock bashing of “Hotel Room” is fun but forgettable, where the molasses-speed grunge meandering of “Human Condition” drags and bores. Despite a sometimes inconsistent flow, the gems on No Future are sparkling, and never spaced too far apart. The promise of the band’s debut 7” (“All Too Human” b/w “William Says”) came from its short-form presentation of tinny pop perfection. Those moments are present here, in bursts, but only subsequent recordings will reveal if Wax Idols can rise to the occasion in album form, or live as a killer singles band.