Music critics (and many a "consumer") these days seem always to be seeking novelty for its own sake, but good music is always good music, and skillful and interesting songwriting is always a welcome surprise. Any read through Sophocles' plays (for instance) would remind us that there are very few new story lines, just new ways of telling them. And this kind of reproduction or renewal, taking existing forms and making them new, reorienting them to our own time zone, always signals the best kind of human life; it is the hope of progress that doesn't forget its roots. Thusly:

Waycross is Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath run through a country and western filter and powered by girls. In other words, they are this recombination of old with new, Antigone defending the law of her god before and in the name of the law of the state. The band is full of people you may or may not have seen playing music before: vocalist Caroleen Beatty fronted the Bedlam Rovers, Sunshine Haire played guitar for them; Bruce Ducheneaux played bass for Bomb and Gifthorse; Doug Hilsinger played drums for Spokepoker and Assassins of God. In Waycross they combine to form that perfect mixture—of lyrical profundity, musical depth and good old wall-of-sound—that links the body to the brain without letting one rule the other, and always reminds you of what you forgot you were looking for when you find it.

This is the kind of songwriting that sticks. The songs are delightful to the ear, but not too easy on the mind, and this is meant as praise. Of course such a feature makes the music approachable on more than one level. One can simply enjoy it for the great melodies, the vocal harmonies and the kick-ass guitar. But in the end the listener would be hard-pressed to escape unaffected by the words.

Many of the lyrics create the effect of being the residue left by a masterful dark novel, of the kind typically American, southern-but-gothic, maybe Faulkner or any of the more skilled writers who inspired Nick Cave to become a novelist. A Waycross song is the crystallized version of the story that follows years after reading, when you remember only the impression the book left, the air it made you breathe or the place it set you back down in after it took you up for taking it on. "In spite of straps and cripplings may your legions grow wings/the clouds show some integrity and part to let you in/I took the taste directly from your lips/And now I wait along these rails to wrest the empire from your grip."

The songs contain love, hate, ambition and regret, mercy and its lack, weakness rising up to bite power in the ass, and power throwing it back. And never do they offer easy conclusions. "I have had better company to harass and judge me/I have walked out on far fiercer wars/To this place of peace which frankly disturbs me/And moves me from rotten to worse." You will find inspiration of a kind within these songs, because they are powerful, but you will not be told what to do, or what is right and wrong. It is as if to say: that decision is properly your own. "And the earth it would mix to mud/ If we settled to just get along/ Only the troubled can be redeemed/ Stay ugly like this for me."

Find their CD at independent music stores, or order it from them directly: c/o 3463-19th St., San Francisco, CA 94110 (alias the Lexington Club. If you're in San Francisco, stop by to buy it, and have a drink.). $10 and something for postage.

Jill Stauffer