Wax Mannequin – Saxon (Zunior)

After two albums of dunderheaded bluster and blissfully bizarre twists on hard rock cliché, Wax Mannequin steps away from his “president of indie rock” persona on Saxon. Though not quite a return to the twisted prog-folk of his first two albums, Saxon is a far subtler effort than 2004’s The Price and 2007’s Orchard and Ire.

Surprisingly for an artist as singular as Wax, Saxon’s strongest moment is a cover — a slow-burning take on Geoff Berner’s anti-capitalist critique, “Volcano God.” The originals are none too shabby, either: The galloping vocal cadence of “Feelings” is endlessly listenable, while songs like “End of Me” and “God’s Love” bring to the surface the mastery of imagery that has always underlied even the most outlandish Wax Mannequin songs.

It’s not quite right to call the album a return to form, as Price and Orchard were both fine albums in their own right. Instead, call it a summation of the songwriter’s career to date and a notice to those who’ve accused him of hiding behind stylized characters and arch irony. If Saxon is any indication, Wax has plenty more than just an absurd sense of humour to add to the Canadian indie scene.

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