I’m a sucker for gravelly, heartfelt punk rock born out of young adult drama and Hot Water Music records. Maybe that’s why I found myself enjoying Wayfarer so much. They’re a cut above most of the bands trying to do the same thing, and throughout the length of Sleep Through to the Light they sound like they have a clear vision of what they want to say. I mean, you don’t write a concept album about the Holocaust without some vision, right? And you certainly don’t write a good one without a whole lot of talent. Wayfarer show they not only have the big ideas worth developing, but also the musicianship and ear for melody to bring it to fruition
Sleep Through to the Light opens with the soft :59 seconds of “The Captive Mind.” Its driven by acoustic guitar and speaks to the natural end game of a lot of these emotional punk acts– the eventual total sonic stripping to nothing more than a guitar and voice. And then, “Beta, the Disappointed Lover,” kicks in with its energetic guitars and passionate vocals and things are thrown right back into the punk rock realm. From the opening lyrics of, “I still remember that look you gave me as I walked right through the gates,” the imagery comes quick and hard. The setting is established pretty directly with lines like, “We swore that when the Reds came through, when they see exactly just what man can do, the world would never close its heart or let it get this far again.” Wayfarer pull off the lyrics really well, fitting them to undeniable melodies, although I was sometimes left with the feeling that the music felt too light for the subject matter.
“Worn Out” is probably the catchiest song on Sleep Through to the Light, a bouncy singalong with lots of detailed imagery. It furthers the idea that the album is more about coping with tragedy and seeing it through rather than specifically detailing the horrors of life and death in concentration camps. Its a narrative used to develop an idea, and the narrative is well used because of the rich detail abound in it, along with the developments of life before and after.
The last three songs on Sleep Through to the Light are the strongest. It works as a sort of thesis statement and also a perfect cohesion of thematics and music. Here, Wayfarer get weirder and more intense and it pays off. I was wondering if punk rock was the best vehicle for this subject matter through the entirety of the album until I heard the last song, “Part III: Andrej” a melodic emo mediation that serves as the final words on the record. It’s framed as a father pondering his experiences in the war and his ability to relate the good things in life to his daughter. In it, the narrator says:
“She only knows her innocence
How do I teach her about beauty
When I’d seen all that I did
Told her there’s love inside this kiss
There’s a freedom in resistance
And so long as I’m alive
You’ll never see the fear that lined our eyes.”
And it comes together beautifully, painting an image of resistance we don’t often see in punk rock.
Sleep Through to the Light is an incredibly ambitious album thematically and Wayfarer did a remarkable job working with such heavy themes and writing such good music around it. Although, I did feel the words and music created an uncomfortable dissonance on some tracks, when the band got darker and more intense it all coalesced into perfection. Sleep Through to the Light is an impressive, humbling experience that shows punk rock as an artistic medium of personal expression where no idea is out of bounds.