Review Summary: Nathan Williams returns as Wavves with a better album, a new band and as a new man...kind of.
Public meltdowns are a career killer. Very few can acquire, let alone maintain the coveted Come Back Kid
title and generally, unless you happen to be Kanye West, it is always beneficial to just plain steer clear. Apparently no one took the time to tell Nathan Williams that last year but if nothing else the man has proven in his short career one simple fact: things have always been a little tricky when concerning Wavves.
Starting at his slap-dash, reverb heavy ascension to Indie Rock Du Jour
circa March 2009 which quickly turned to an almost clinical nose dive following fan backlash and a short trip to Spain; it just seems like the guy never had a real chance. In spite of my optimism, and moreover my desire to give Wavves the benefit of the doubt (did you see
the photos from Primavera 09? The kid looks ***ed), I cannot bypass that nagging inclination to just settle on: Nathan Williams is probably a douche.
That being said, King Of The Beach
his third full length release as Wavves, is more than just a collection of self-loathing fuzzy-pop tracks stuck ass deep in their own Summery nostalgia. Not to say they stray very far thematically from his previous recordings, there is still plenty of sun/drugs/surf/girls/drugs/repeat
, but now everything feels less forced. Williams seems to have found an ease to himself, one that previously was non-existent, and while the tension certainly added weight to Wavves, it also betrayed him in the worst way possible. No matter how much Nathan could proclaim “I’m soooo booored,” on his debut, it couldn’t hide the powder keg beneath Wavves’ apparent brazen attitude; regardless of how hard he tried to portray himself as laissez-faire you could damn near hear Williams was breaking right from the start.
The question now posed to (or really by) Wavves is simple: why should you still care? While almost cheapened by the whole revelation that the band is, in fact, no more than a few years old and really the reason that King Of The Beach
is even remotely being looked at as a heavy hitter
for your upcoming release calendar is simple: the way he went out. Its not every day that a headstrong youngster, who about 6 solid months after releasing their debut EP, strolls into a foreign country invited to play at a huge festival and then proceeds to have a drug-addled personal breakdown with the accompanying band split on stage all while hurling insults (and fruit) back at the audience. *** like that leaves an impression. So much that up until a few days ago all I’d ever have had for Wavves was a few scoffs and chuckles coupled with numerous eye rolls. But once King Of The Beach
is allowed to settle in, you find that Williams has since checked his ego at the door (kind of), and might just need a hug or two.
While it feels almost counter-productive to harp on Williams’ mishap in Barcelona, it is a very apparent crux for the albums regretful under dog in the sun, who you’ll never stop
mentality. Not only that, but was easily the apex of the listener backlash Williams has “suffered” over the past few years, a backlash Wavves combats head on. Rather than pining to the likes of those who’d be quick to dismiss him as a one-trick, self-hating clap-trap of pseudo hipster ideals Williams digs himself deeper. But instead of just working towards making this bottomless pit, Wavves try their hardest to expand the area as well. King
while not too sonically different from Wavvves
in the basest sense, finds plenty of wiggle room when it comes to the experimentation. Filling out his empty slots with the remainder of The Jay Reatard band and Bethany Cosentino from Best Coast, King
may sound similar, but its certainly not the same Wavves. Shots in the dark seemingly turn to gold as Williams finds his inner Tom Delonge meeting Paul McCartney on the albums opening three-track suite or the E6 infuse psychedelia of “Baseball Cards” and epic closer “Baby Say Goodbye” Hell, it has been only a year and even so his MPP
vinyl is on full display when concerning “When Will You Come,” “Baseball Cards” and “Mickey Mouse,” all of which play the fine line between appreciation and aping brilliantly; Williams infusing his reverb heavy, girl-group inspired pop with a reliance on house synths and warm bass lines, it pays off in full.
King Of The Beach
is being built up by its creators as something of a musical embodiment of what constitutes “Summer.” While a bit overambitious in the end, the theme is not lost with the album or misplayed by the band. It’s very apparent that Wavves have picked certain sounds that to them, pertain to summer time (Pop-punk, Brit-Pop, E6, Surf Rock, Freak Folk respectively) and are trying their damnedest to translate them into their own language. Amongst all the buzzy guitars and woozy keys Williams is still the main attraction. While it’s nothing new to hear him complain about how he “hates his music” and that “it’s all the same” or how much of an “idiot” he happens to be or how his apologies “won’t mean ***”--this time you actually believe him. The smugness is gone, somewhat, enough so that hearing him proclaim “I never wanna leave home/Everything in the back of my brain/Told me that I would be sick/When I'm out there,” on album standout “Mickey Mouse,” leans more towards the heart-wrenching than vomit-inducing.
While the reasons they have for being in this state (really, where to you go
after that trip to Barcelona?), it certainly does not hurt that they do a very good job. Which is exactly what needed to happen, because Nathan Williams, who in his three or so years under the Wavves moniker, has essentially already destroyed his band, not to mention his fan base, while hitting rock bottom--he couldn’t afford another loss. While Wavves, Williams and their previous (impending?) downfalls and reemergence are all compelling arguments as to why you should pay close attention to Nathan TV
, it is the album’s ability to keep itself separate from the fray that’s lent so much to its value. King Of The Beach
, regardless of its fuzz, brazen outlook and apologetic undertone is still, above all things, an excellent embodiment of the season, but more importantly positions Wavves, or really Williams himself to finally earn this crown we were so quick to tear from a top his dome after only so recently placing it there.