There’s a fine line between stupid and brilliant, and Wax Museums are sitting right on it, grinning like maniacs. It’s either stupid or brilliant to start an album with Paul Museum’s outraged shout “Hey! I got locked in the mall.” (Doesn’t this happen to everyone?) Or to write a whole song about going to the grocery store to buy shampoo. Or to lace “Cowboys and Indians” with pseudo-Apache war cries. You listen to this album and you think about Joey Ramone going on and on about not wanting to be buried in a pet cemetary. Or Vom graphically in love with your mom. Or the Dils hating the rich. You remember that the punk revolution wasn’t just about anybody being able to play guitar, but also anybody being able to write songs about any damn thing, the more brain-dead the better?
The Wax Museums, out of Denton, Texas, back up their goofball lyrics with the bashed-out, sped-up, hard-strummed punk that you’d expect from a band that claims (on MySpace) to sound like “a zoo full of Ramones.” If you stopped to think about, say “DOGS in the USA,” you’d notice that guitar player TV Daniel is sawing his fingers to stumps on just two chords, that the bass line and drums are similarly basic. But the song is such a rush, such a stomach-pounding onslaught of dumb-ass bravado that you don’t care how limited it is. Same goes for “The Smell,” with its hair-pulling, head-grabbing, sliding-down-the-fretboard riff. It’s like a jet engine taking off, that riff, or like the fuse on a bomb that’s about to go off, all energy, no complications. That’s pretty much the story, all through the album – ADD-afflicted shouts, drums slapped silly and guitar and bass pummeled within an inch of destruction. And then onto the next. Not a single song tops two minutes, and only one of them (“Grocery Store”) comes even close.
The Wax Museum’s self-titled debut comes after a string of low-rent, two-chord singles (two of them reviewed here and here in Doug Mosurock’s Still Single column). In many ways, the full-length is more of the same. It isn’t even an album in any structured, end-to-end sense, but rather a collection of hard-kicking singles slapped together. It runs the risk of repetition, each song a firehose blast without variation in tempo, volume or mood. There are some differentiating details – a short, hair-raising bass solo in “Got No Guts,” a staccato off kilter-ness to “Glass Miniature,” a hint of sped-up Clash in “I Don’t Really Want to Kill,” those war-paint whoops in “Cowboys and Indians” – to keep your attention. It could become dull, if the album wasn’t just 19 minutes long.
For less than half an hour, though, Wax Museum is brainless, adrenalized fun. No one ever said punk had to be smart to be brilliant.