Published Jun 22, 2018Underappreciated Canadian legend-in-the-making Wax Mannequin has found beautiful cohesion between his quirky avant-pop past and his burgeoning maturity as a thoughtful folk troubadour on his seventh album, Have A New Name.
After stripping back the dense layers of delightful strangeness Hamilton's Christopher Adeney built around his Wax Mannequin persona over the previous decade in order to explore raw, more direct songcraft on 2012's No Safe Home, the utterly singular songsmith has reclaimed his idiosyncrasies on this bold eight-track statement.
The album starts with a classic bit of modern Mannequin, the simple, folksy, humble and eminently hummable, "Someone Fixed the Game For Me," before diving into a peppier Moxy Früvous-esque folk punk shimmy-down about worms. Neither would've sounded out of place on No Safe Home, nor would the album's third number, instant gratification folk fable "Boring" — at least until the vocals thicken and intensify and additional instrumentation creeps in.
It's on career standout "People Can Change" that the album really announces itself as its own uniquely evolved beast. The glorious folk ballad is elevated by heavenly strings and choir that perfectly support one of the most beautiful melodies, and sentiments, that Adeney has written yet. Though it's the album's best track, everything that follows benefits and seems inspired by its experimental grandeur. Hints of past quirks pop up in more focused new contexts.
Old school fans missing a bit of that meow meow childlike wonder-weird can delight in the fantastic hit of playful strange that is "Basketball." Adeney's David Byrne appreciation is clearly showing on this one, without ever sounding like anything other than himself. Rock is still largely off the menu on this release, but there's some seriously beefy distorted bass helping drive the East coast folk punk of "Scolds Bridle."
Adeney's wry observations on human nature still drive his songwriting and connect his seemingly disparate impulses — to subvert and to sooth; to befuddle and explain — and on Have A New Name, Wax Mannequin has reconnected with his past without retracing his steps, making his old moniker feel fresh again in the process, like a self-evolving musical Pokémon. (Coax)