The Wait, the latest album from Providence, Rhode Island's Zox, is very good. Had it ended at track nine, it would have been excellent. Although there are plenty of engaging moments, the last four tracks are repetitive and tend to weigh down an otherwise quality effort.
But let's talk about the good stuff: Following a distracting 40-second intro, the band comes out of the gate strong with "Thirsty." The tune sounds like early Police mixed with Sublime - in other words, a promising start. Vocalist/guitarist Eli Miller's axe sound is crisp but by no means clean, adding to the track's rock bounce.
The following cut, "Carolyn," forgoes some of the pop-punk edge in favor of more melody. It still works pretty well, however. Zox manages to rock convincingly while dropping enough pop hooks for a hit single.
They keep the party going with "A Little More Time," unleashing the band's secret weapon: Spencer Swain on violin. He lays down a fantastic solo here, and adds needed verve to the rest of the record.
Nowhere is Swain's contribution more noticeable than "Better If It's Worse," a pulsing track that shifts gears several times before hitting a frenzied overdrive when Swain steps to the fore.
"Bridge Burning" and "Can't Look Down" are two more tunes that could get by on their catchy hooks but benefit tremendously from Swain's input.
Still, the violin hero doesn't carry the load all by himself. The band's fine rhythm section, composed of drummer John Zox and bassist Dan Edinberg, provide an unflagging groove throughout. Miller's guitar work isn't quite shit-hot, but certainly doesn't disappoint. He's a quite the singer, too, which is pretty rare in the jam world. Much of his melody and phrasing borrows from the golden age of alternative music, back when it was called "college rock."
Miller also wrote all the lyrics and, while he's no Dylan, none of his prose is embarrassing. Clearly there's some kind of heartbreak in his past. At least, that's what I assume. It would be remarkable if Miller hadn't experienced romantic angst and still conveyed this level of emotion.
The remainder of The Wait is solidly played, but lacks the inspiration of the earlier cuts. Rumor has it that Zox really rocks live; hear for yourself when they play the Higher Ground Ballroom on Thursday, November 16, with Tally Hall, The Casual Fiasco and Jer Coons.