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Rock ‘n’ roll strikes back

Published 4:22pm Friday, February 7, 2014

Every year in the post-Grammy fuss, I hear some pundit decrying the current state of rock ‘n’ roll in the wake of what he or she calls a weak set of nominees.

As if on cue, the rock bands have bitten back. It’s just a matter of if anyone is listening.

Louisville, Ky., rockers Wax Fang recently released “The Astronaut,” a grandiose specimen of rock ‘n’ roll goodness.

The album sounds like a lost relic from the mid-1970s, like something recorded in an empty arena and locked away in a time capsule.

Soon after I listened to it, I told a friend about the “The Astronaut.” His first impression: It sounds a bit like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” I hadn’t put two-and-two together, but he was right, especially “The Wall Live.”  Early parts of “The Astronaut Part 1” are reminiscent of the opening lines of “In the Flesh,” and the album often has the same theatrical vibe. There’s also a definite My Morning Jacket quality, which is no surprise as Wax Fang has opened for their fellow Louisville rockers.

Scott Carney and Jacob Heustis create a sound that falls somewhere between a grandiose jam and a space-inspired opera. One thing’s for certain, it has a much bigger sound than would be expected of a duo, and multiple instruments are added in along the journey.

For a 45-minute album, there’s only five songs: three parts of “The Astronaut” divided by two shorter interlude tracks. In reality, it plays a lot like one long track.

The album requires a bit of patience. “Part 1” is a sprawling, 16-plus minute track that takes it’s time to build. The song is a bit like the slow buildup to blastoff, which peaks with a guitar solo and an extravagant horn-infused finale. But again, it takes some patience getting there. (Come on, we’re Minnesotans in the middle of winter; we’re nothing if not patient.).  Part 2 is 12 minutes long, but opens with plenty of teeth.

The album is far from perfect. Musically, it’s fantastic. But lyrically, it leaves a little to be desired. Carney’s vocals are difficult to understand and lacking compared to the music.

But after all the talk about pop and dance music, it’s great to hear some pull-no-punches guitar rock.


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