The latest release from WACO, Yorkshire’s pop-sitive intergalactic punk band, will bring a smile to your face. Hope Rituals is a tribute to WACO’s late bassist, Chris Cowley, and it tackles some weighty themes. But, as always, WACO has approached these issues with a smile on their face and have produced an album that’s helped them to heal. Oh, and it’s jam-packed with divinely inspired psych-punk bangers – what’s not to like?
‘Wrecking Ball’ introduces Hope Rituals, speaking of hardship, struggles with loss and how they can have a monumental aspect on how we live. These deeply personal thoughts are sung over a track of stripped back raw acoustics, which always makes the bare emotion hit home. This heartbreaking vibe slowly changes to become the positive, uplifting one that WACO is well-known for.
While it starts off as a classic pop-punk track, ‘Good Days’ quickly morphs into something much more. It features snazzy basslines and a catchy chorus, both of which are easy to enjoy. It feels as though WACO approached this in a frenzied, upbeat way and this shows in the track. While the lyrics may be sobering in spite of it's chemical sound, there’s fun flowing from this track’s energetic, experimental sound.
‘Dark Before the Dawn’ is the first starkly different song on Hope Rituals. It combines Jamie T’s spoken-word style with IDLES’ powerful sense of inclusivity. It just demands attention with overdriven fuzz and a bold, almost ancestral drum beat. Frontman Jak Hutchcraft’s lyric, “you can’t kill an ideology so let’s write our own to set us free” is empowering, and ‘Dark Before the Dawn’ does feel like a song for uncertain times, something WACO can be counted on to provide.
Another theme of Hope Rituals is the group's leanings into more psych and cosmic realms. Throughout the record an air of progressive space age spirituality and left-field eccentricity is effervescent, with Hope Rituals fluidly tunneling between classic archaic punk, 80's prog and gleaming noise-rock. ‘Great White Wall of Voodoo’ piques interest with its title, and it turns out to be incredibly guitar-driven and spiritual oddball. It feels like a great punk song with an interesting point to make about humanity’s impact on the earth. Pondering themes of spiritualism and thought experiments during their ruminations on identify, WACO has constantly something profound to say with this, although it must be said that the chorus and guitar licks can feel just slightly repetitive at times.
For the album’s last hurrah, WACO offers you ‘A New Future’. It’s seven minutes of ambition that tells the story of a different, somewhat utopian world. It could be said as the encapsulation of Hope Rituals, the track that binds the group's love for experimentation, smile evoking whimsicality and gleeful optimism in one coherent track. Truly, if classic era Rush binned prog, looked into the future and made cutting edge DIY punk it would probably sound something a little like this.
Each song has a different vibe and different sound; WACO has experimented with acoustic tracks, punk ones, and synth-heavy ones. The lyrics are hopeful and choruses are catchy. Hope Rituals will take you through a range of emotions from sad, to frenzied, hopeful, and back again. It’s bold, experimental, and enjoyable. A contender for your new favourite album, for sure.
Hope Rituals is released August 28th via Venn Records.