Oakland’s Wax Idols started as the vision of its founder, singer/guitarist Hether Fortune, but on their fourth album, Happy Ending, the quartet’s power is as a collective force. Thanks to now long-established members Rachel Travers on drums and Peter Lightning on guitar, Wax Idols have done something other bands similarly indebted to ‘80s post-punk and goth haven’t: write a record that finds strength in simply being alive, however dark the shadows might be.
It’s audible from the start, with the lead-off track “Heaven Knows” smartly showcasing nearly all the group’s core qualities. Fortune’s vivid, strong voice matches instantly memorable music that combines pop catchiness with dark undertones, squealing and shattered guitar riffs with tense, powerful drumming. The following track, “Too Late,” soars like something out of the Psychedelic Furs catalog; while its lyrics speak of loss, the song itself pushes forward relentlessly, mirroring the album’s spirit of determination. “Belong,” built around a bass riff by Travers and fleshed out by the band, has the nerviness of a prime Cure single, a tangle of guitars tripping across a locomotive bassline.
In recent interviews, Fortune has spoken about weathering deep, personal losses and, accordingly, the lyrics on Happy Ending address separation, regret, and despair. The album’s closing song, “Missed Call,” is a spare Fortune solo performance that speaks of missed connections and sad farewells. But as the song goes on, it becomes about something more—Fortune begins recalling shared memories with an unnamed friend on the other end of a phone call. “I don’t blame you for anything,” she sings, “some people they just drift away never knowing that they’re lost.” It mirrors much of Happy Ending: life is difficult, painful things happen but, ultimately, peace is possible.