By Trevor Pour
While Zox's sophomore album blends their unique brand of fiddle-infused punk with some new tricks and lyrics, The Wait comes up short of standing out amongst the fray. Their musical prowess remains definitively strong compared to their punk-indie peers, but the boys from Brown University can't seem to break into something fresh with this release.
This is a band whose inimitable characteristic lays in the fusion of a classically trained violinist with teen-movie punk rock, yet Spencer Swain's fiddle sounds underpowered throughout most of this album. Instead, the lead vocals of Eli Miller dominate, and while Miller's poetic talents aren't terrible, they simply don't change to meet the mood or the tempo of each unique composition. Additionally, the lyrical potency of the band still lies in disrepair. Carried rapidly to fame by a phenomenally strong live act and devoted following, Zox still hasn't quite mastered the depth in songwriting that comes with experience.
Arguably, the two best tracks on the album coincide with the most audible and creative fiddle work - on "Better If It's Worse" and "Can't Look Down." The latter is particularly impressive, with the band fully exercising their talent as a singular unit. Drummer John Zox remains a predominantly strong element behind the band on every track, setting pace with precision and accuracy and often providing the energy behind some of the stronger pieces. Additionally, former jazz bassist Dan Edinberg provides a solid and neatly contrasting background for Swain's fiddle on a number of tracks, especially "I Am Only Waiting." Stylistically, the heavy ska component evident in the opening track "Thirsty" remains throughout the rest of the album, but it mingles with Guster-like balladry in "Big Fish" and treads closely to The Cure in "Carolyn." Creativity and experimentation abound on the simple-yet-elegant "Fallen," which seems to be the most original track on The Wait.
Zox is capable of releasing a better album than The Wait, but at least undertones of solid ability are visible through the shrouds of messy production and heavy vocals. Overall, the combination of production, lackluster vocal ability, and lyrics lacking any real poetic device or creative imagery prevent me from recommending this album. The musical abilities, however, tied with a real band unity, will undoubtedly draw me to my next local Zox show and will certainly interest me in their next release. I'll be waiting.
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