WACO – ‘Hope Rituals’

By Louis Kerry

Optimistic cosmic punk weirdos WACO return with their second album ‘Hope Rituals’ filled with left turns and good vibes. After the tragic loss of their bassist Chris Cowley, there was a time where new music from the group seemed unlikely but following a period of healing and reflection, the band have returned refocused with a batch of genre-bending songs that would make their fallen bandmate proud, as well as acting as a statement piece on their future.

‘Hope Rituals’ is WACO disregarding typical genre conventions without concern, offering a whirlwind of styles and influences from vintage prog rock to Black Flag style hardcore. Not only does their performance steer far away from what you’d expect, the lyrics are often as deep as their sound, built around hope, individualism and creating your own reality – certainly beyond the generic rhetoric you often hear from their contemporaries.

Opening track ‘Wrecking Ball’ starts off with a chilled vibe alongside singer Jak Hutchcraft’s quite noticeably quirky style, easily comparible with a less stoned and more psychedelic take on Dune Rats’ ‘we’re all mates here’ style gang vocals.

The band’s bursts of uplifting choruses are the highlights of the album. Gritty lead single ‘Good Days’ takes you back to a pre-pandemic era that you can’t help but connect with. Full of dry wit and British accents, this, along with the likes of ‘Dark Before Dawn’, sits perfectly alongside the surge of post punk artists emerging. Not only do the band provide an honest view on modern Britain but they pack a melody that would have the likes of IDLES and Sports Team running for cover.

When so much of the alternative scene prefers to stay in one lane, afraid to innovate, WACO goes beyond expectations with the level of diversity on ‘Hope Rituals’. ‘Learn To Live Again’ has a classic rock groove that is bold yet successfully completed challenge in the middle of a self-proclaimed punk album. WACO’s experimentation is hardly detrimental to the pace or authenticity of the album. ‘Baracuda’ is a psychedelic seventies prog epic as guitarist Tom Pallot channels his inner Hawkwind while Hutchcraft showcases his most convincing top form vocal performance on the album.

Before you know it, WACO will take you on another unexpected journey, like they’re almost trying to catch you off guard with the brit-pop worshipping Busy Livin’. Featuring a catchy sunshine chorus, the track is perfect for a singalong on Brighton seafront with a pint and chips clutched in hand.

Never letting you get comfortable, WACO follow up with a song that is complete opposite in styles, the unconventional 100mph ‘Physio’ bashes your skull in with a hardcore punk assault and chucks you through the window on the way out in less than two minutes.

The lack of continuity between WACO’s rule-bending anthems is not without a stumble of misguidedness. ‘If’ offers some life lessons in the acoustic country track but it sits rather uncomfortably alongside some of the more leftfield songs on ‘Hope Rituals’ . The earnest song uncovers where WACO’s limitations are.

WACO has delivered experimentation without confines seamlessly. Rarely do you hear so much ambition on one album as on ‘Hope Rituals’. Redefining the expectations of UK punk, WACO, in the midst of their healing process, are here to tell you that punk rock can be anything you want it to be.

LOUIS KERRY

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