Wwax Like It or Not

Despite Merge Records being one of the most illustrious labels around, it wasn't always this way for the North Carolina indie. In fact, much of its early roster was lucky to make it past state lines, often falling to the wayside of the popular music consciousness and eventually into obscurity. Well, as part of this year's 20th anniversary celebrations, Merge has kicked off a reissue campaign to shine a light on some of those long-lost acts, such as Wwax, label co-founder Mac McCaughan's rarely heard pre-Superchunk trio. Gathering various out-of-print tracks from 1987 and 1988, Wwax's new digital-only collection, Like It or Not, serves as an interesting history lesson for Merge aficionados, offering up songs that fall somewhere between late '80s hardcore and what would eventually become the punked-up indie rock of early Superchunk. A bit disappointingly, McCaughan's vocals only take the lead on a small handful of the 15 Wwax tracks, with bassist Wayne Taylor and drummer Brian Walsby dominating the mic time. And while the vocals of this little-known pair have a certain gruff charm to them, the McCaughan songs are the clear standouts, especially the ramped-up "Pumpkin," a track every self-respecting Chunker should hear. Wwax were very much a band "of their time," with Like It or Not best approached as an entertaining musical artefact rather than a timeless collection. (Merge)