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Imperial Wax - "Gastwerk Saboteurs" | Album Review


by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)

Over the course of eleven years and six albums, Keiron Melling (drums), Dave Spurr (bass), and Pete Greenway (guitar) formed behind Mark E. Smith as the final and longest iteration of The Fall. After Smith’s passing, they recruited Sam Curran for vocal duties and formed Imperial Wax, the name being a nod to the first album they all played on together as The Fall, and have put out their first album Gastwerk Saboteurs. Featuring twelve tracks of post-punk informed garage rock, Imperial Wax succeeds by not trying to imitate their work in The Fall. Sure, some of the riffs could have fit in with their previous gig, but it’s more the vibe and sound than anything specific. This is straight up, infectious, rock n’ roll filled with attitude and looking to get you to move.

Curran fits right in with the band’s groove. There’s no reticence about trying to fill anyone’s shoes because he’s not. His voice is a perfect shout along companion, full of feeling and mood generated by force instead of octave. Many of his lines throughout the album find their way stuck on a loop. Lines like “Too busy living life in single file, We could be happy but it’s not worthwhile” from album opener “The Art of Projection,” or even just the two word phrase “keyboard coward” from “Saying Nothing.” One can hear his true strength as a vocalist in the chorus of “Turncoat.” The song builds up to it in the verse and bridge so that when the chorus hits it acts as this great release. Curran is the general leading the crowd in unison as he sings “Defected deserter, I’m a turn coat man, You go snitching to the enemy your filthy plans, I’m the perfected performer of a modern man, You go crying to your mother, she will understand.” The word choice and meter of it all just sounds good to the ear. It works well together.

As for the band behind him, you can hear all their killer work summed up in the one-two punch of “No Man’s Land” and “Poison Ivy.” “No Man’s Land” has this surf rock gone sour vibe about it that comes crashing onto shore in the chorus that has Melling ripping off rolls on his snare while Spurr and Greenway support Curran’s snarling. “Poison Ivy” has a late night, up to no good feel to it. Spurr rips this groovy as hell bass line while Greenway’s guitar line accents the cock-of-the-walk attitude the band emits. If the album has anything resembling a ballad it would be “More Fool Me,” a blues infected slow(er) jam as Curran sings “She’ll never love me and I’ll have to accept it, Cos I never wanna let her go.”

If one had to pick a best song on the album, they’d find it right in the middle in “Barely Getting By.” It’s a song that sums up a lot of the current vibe out in the world. Angry, bitter, cynical, and resigned, it starts off at a low simmer but you can feel the heat starting to rise as Curran sings “A million different people say I don’t understand, As they mime a silent union, But still promote the brand.” The words get a little meaner, the drum hits go a littler harder, then it all crescendos in a cathartic sing along, Curran screaming over and over “I’m just barley getting by!” It’s a sentiment that can be universally applied. 

“Death to all those on the fence” Curran says elsewhere on “Barely Getting By.” These are fractured times where compromise and middle of the road won’t cut it. This should go for the art and “entertainment” we consume. Gastwerk Saboteurs may do one thing, but it does it well. It’s committed, authentic, fierce rock, and there’s nothing more fresh than that.