The Waxwings – Low to the Ground

The Waxwings
Low to the Ground

Knowing that record companies occasionally overstate the relative talents of the musicians on their roster, it is forgivable that the folks at the Bobsled label have taken to touting The Waxwings as “soon to become one of rock history’s greatest bands.” Though it’s hard to know exactly how serious to take this claim, it certainly sets the stakes a little high for a band’s debut album. It doesn’t help that The Waxwings are fearlessly treading the same territory that countless other power-pop bands have ventured before. Worse yet, they’re probably going to be confused with modern rockers’ Waxwing until one of the groups break up or changes its name. Even the great bands of rock need to get a few lucky breaks.

The opener “Keeping the Sparks” brings to mind the Beach Boys with big multi-part backing harmonies, periodically broken up by brashly distorted guitars while taking a few Beatlesque turns. Still, the breathy lead vocals and somewhat safe arrangement sound more like the Goo Goo Dolls channeling these two legendary groups than a band who is cutting a new path through the bedrock of the genre. Again picking their influences well, “Sleepy Head” is a dead-on John Lennon-inspired number, putting soulful organ, acoustic and electric guitar, and drums with sweet chord changes, altogether sounding like Yoko Ono found another shoebox of lost demos under the bed. “Different Plane” furthers this seminal rock lovefest by displaying a laidback Younger Than Yesterday-era Byrds folk-rock feel, while the big open sounding “Firewood” shows a more pronounced Big Star AM radio influence.

Having established that they’ve done their homework on the pop-perfect sound, The Waxwings also exhibit a modernist edge. Showing a nice versatility, the bashing bar rock of “Ten O’Clock Your Time” sounds like Wilco used to when they were ripping off the Rolling Stones. Happily, most of this debut falls somewhere between Supergrass and Superdrag, with tracks like “While You Spiral” and “Into the Scenery” splashing big melodies over a carefully swinging rhythm section and each track adding to a neatly cohesive sound.

Overall, it’s nice to hear a band doing this kind of stuff that isn’t as cloyingly esoteric as bands in the Elephant 6 collective nor as painfully introspective as Elliott Smith. In fact, this is simply an extremely well made album, well produced and well textured. While you probably won’t find yourself with the pattern of your stereo speaker imprinted on the side of your face from the first listen, this is the kind of album that grows stronger with each spin. In short, it’s a well-worn sound, and they wear it well. “Soon to become one of rock history’s greatest bands?” We will see.