Album Review Wavves - King Of The Beach3-5 Stars
The only response is to turn the volume up loud as you either drive to the nearest beach, or else just get high with your cat.
Having a drawing of a cat smoking a joint on your album cover certainly takes a bit of the pressure off Nathan Williams. On ‘King Of The Beach’, the third record by Wavves, the stoned feline gracing the cover not only humorously deflects the intense scrutiny and expectations placed upon Williams by the music industry, but it also serves as a good clue that the music found on the album will be loose, unruly and uproarious. The songs are at once much more developed and refined, harnessing the potential found within Williams’ slack-punk anthems of his youth into, if not a more mature sound, than at least a more focused one. He hasn’t lost the bratty confidence that alienated some listeners in the past, but he has toned down that adolescent fatuousness in favor of a more appealing, inviting sound that still remains catchy as hell, in spite of all the haters hoping for Williams to fail miserably.
The band is now rounded out by erstwhile Jay Reatard members Stephen Pope (bass) and Billy Hayes (drums), who have also joined Williams on tour. Their addition helps flesh out the ideas in Williams’ head a bit, while also adding a welcome punch to his thinner material, as does veteran producer Dennis Herring, who brought the band to Sweet Tea studios in Oxford, Mississippi. That shift in locale gives these decidedly Californian songs a bit of grit and substance while losing none of the sunny optimism found in the melodies. But while the music is dynamically upbeat, the lyrics are as dark and self-deprecating as ever, with Williams still wallowing in the same despair as on his other records. At least he doesn’t let those insecure thoughts cause him to quit trying, brazenly repeating ‘You’re never gonna stop me’ on the riotous title track. Make no mistake, though, Williams still feels stupid doing this, even if his music completely belies those doubts.
The lyrics throughout the record sometimes seem like Williams is writing about whatever is laying around in his parents garage, with elementary song titles like ‘Super Soaker,’ ‘Baseball Cards,’ and ‘Convertible Balloon.’ These songs are meant to be enjoyed on strictly a surface level, with nothing revealing itself if you dig any deeper. But that’s the point to this album, and to Wavves really, it’s just catchy, simple rock songs that are meant to put a smile on your face. The trouble comes when you expect too much from the music or the artist (and, apparently, when you mix alcohol, ecstasy, and Valium at a festival in Barcelona), for these songs are meant to soundtrack having a good time getting wasted with your friends as opposed to touring the Vatican.
While the songs do start sounding a bit indistinguishable towards the end of the record, the standouts are numerous: the surf-stomp of ‘Idiot,’ the propulsive chug of ‘Post Acid.’ and the snotty, punk arrogance of ‘Take On The World.’ Furthermore, in perhaps the grandest accomplishment on the album, the tender dissonance of ‘Green Eyes’ erupts into a downward spiral of enmity and bile that is indelible despite itself. But if you dislike Wavves intensely, don’t worry, Williams is right there with you, singing ‘I still hate my music, it’s all the same’ and ‘My own friends hate my guts. So what, who gives a fuck.’ So, the music and the movement is ultimately careless but relentlessly catchy, and the only response is to turn the volume up loud as you either drive to the nearest beach, or else just get high with your cat.
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