One For the Ride
This is one of my first posts covering a record from my emo dark-ages, which began a couple of years before the turn of the millenium. A time when most art and science was lost on me (I was failing classes). I would only listen to the moodiest of rock’n’roll. It had to contain lamentable lyrics, focusing as frequently as possible on a long-distance relationship. It had to have some heartfelt and sincere gutteral screaming, and the music had to be unattractive to nearly everyone. You know, the good ol' days. When shit was real.
There’s a line from High Fidelity (An emo-kid favorite. Though not quite at the Donnie Darko-level.) where Cusack says “Do I listen to pop-music because I’m miserable? Or am I miserable because I listen to pop music?” It’s a great question really. But one easily answered when all you listen to is self-loathing “emotional rock.” The type of rock where singers complain about the most basic of everyday situations as to make them seem completely unbearable. It’s melodrama. And the truth is I was listening to so much melodrama I was making myself more miserable than I really was. With some common sense I eventually grew out of it.
But not all of it. As fashionable as it is to bash emo these days, there were a lot of excellent artists and ideas that developed out of the genre. Waxwing's One For the Ride is one of those bright spots. On this record they craft latin-influenced guitar rock with a punk-rock edge. It’s mostly minor-key, and a lot of it is depressing, but the six-string work is truly phenomenal. Some pure pop fans might be turned off by some of the unconventional song structures – these guys just had too many ideas to write your typical verse-chorus-verse tracks – but it lends to some very original songwriting.
The problem area with One For the Ride is the shoddy lyricism. Rocky Votolato (brother to guitarist Cody Votolato, also the guitarist for the Blood Brothers) has a great voice, but I don’t pretend to understand most of what he is singing about. With titles like “All My Prophets,” “Industry,” “There Will Be a Reckoning,” and “What the Hands Have Grown,” it seems Rocky is displeased with the direction society is moving towards. It could be an interesting subject if his words weren’t so cryptic. But in the end, the lyrics really only serve as an additional tonal layer to the music, which always comes first with Waxwing.
I am often so intrigued by experimental instrumentation I can completely ignore what’s being said by the vocalist, but I don’t think most can. And it’s this tacky lyricism which is displayed throughout most of One For the Ride that most likely held Waxwing back from more mainstream success. I admit I don't come back to this record often, but when I'm in the mood for some angular guitar-rock, and I'm feeling a little emo, One For the Ride will always be there to indulge me.