The Wait

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The sophomore effort from Zox finds the band yearning to disassociate itself from the "jam band" and "third wave ska revival" labels that had been affixed to its 2002 debut, Take Me Home. In some ways this is a wise move: labels can be limiting, and those two genres were seen as somewhat passé by 2005. But in doing so, the band somehow loses one of its primary strengths: the signature violin wailing of virtuoso Spencer Swain. The Wait is a very fine album, reminiscent of 311 during that band's creative peak, but the de-emphasis of the electric violin solos deprives Zox of a bit of its uniqueness. Nevertheless, the 12 songs here (the opening track is an unnecessary instrumental intro) are consistent reminders that dynamic arrangements and a willingness to break with convention are what lift the band above most other indie rock acts. A meaty bassline carries lead single "Carolyn," a track oddly reminiscent of Counting Crows' "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby," which also benefits from lively, vivid lyrics that are confessional yet not corny. Other highlights include "A Little More Time" and "Bridge Burning," instantly memorable slices of frat-ska-rock with prominent backing vocal lines. Primary songwriter and singer Eli Miller again plumbs the depths of his heart without resorting to clichés or whininess; it's his vocals and guitar work that dominate the album. Drummer John Zox gets his, too, with an inspired workout on the splendidly melodic "Spades." But Swain's violin work, the linchpin on Take Me Home, is largely relegated to fills and the occasional solo, standing out as a countervoice on "Fallen" and as a white-noise foil to the lead guitar on closing track "I Am Only Waiting." Zox are more determined but slightly less distinctive with The Wait, a very enjoyable but less than awe-inspiring album.

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