Wax Fang

La La Land

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Amid the endless stream of "perfect pop" albums created by auteurs in basements and studios with endless amounts of patience, it's a bit refreshing to find someone who mixes that requisite amount of monomaniacal focus with a little variety, not to mention the willingness to invite others to join them. Thus on his band's second album, Wax Fang founder Scott Carney adds in rhythm section Jacob Heustis and drummer Kevin Ratterman, having assisted him on the road, and otherwise continues to spike his arch, half-Beatles half-glam approach to songwriting and singing with guitar parts that almost act as the equivalent to Warren Ellis' work in the Dirty Three, shading and filling in corners rather than leading the way all the time. It's an inexact comparison since Carney does have straight up melodies to anchor the songs as well, but it's almost telling that while his enjoyably shrill singing (more John Lydon than Johnny Rotten) is OK enough, the most thrilling moments are the fully instrumental ones, where he lets his guitar do all the talking needed. The combination of soft chime and droning whoosh on "At Sea" is a melodramatic moment worthy of a good soundtrack (though heaven knows what the best film would be), while the straightforward but astonishing guitar heroics on "Avant Guardian Angel Dust" might actually be the best part the Edge never played. With nervous, strident performances like "World War II (Pt. 2)" and "Can You See the Light?" adding to the feeling, La La Land is a bit of a square peg in a round hole in terms of 2008's stereotypes of what indie rock is -- and all the better for it.

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