Review Summary: Wavves' comeback album in which Nathan Williams fails blandly
Alright, Nathan Williams, I’ll give. This is your comeback album and you sell it. The way your career arc has edged along (basically five years condensed into two), I’d indulge the theory that you are nothing but a marketing gimmick and Wavvves
was expert blog trolling. A drug-induced meltdown in Barcelona? The rockstar gods have smiled on you, Nathan Williams. You are truly the King of the Beach.
But jeez, what a crowded beach this has become. What set Wavvves
apart from the pack was that it failed spectacularly. You came fully packaged as the archetypal indie rockstar on which 2009 could don its hang-ups: scuzzy, stoner loopy, so fu
cking DIY it hurt. The backlash was imminent, and in a few months, you defined a decade’s atmosphere for an industry controlled by blogs. Taking lo-fi at its own game, you pounded your california surf rock into a disposal and expected it to bleed suburban boredom everywhere you went because you could
. “I’m so bored”? Genius. Did you know some people called you punk
? That s
And yet there remained, shredded in the disposal blades, an indisputable underdog charm. If ever there was hype band itching for a second wind, it was you, for while the rest of us (critics et al) came around to the fact that, yeah, your noisy shtick was just that, there remained a loyal following that understood the appeal of your backyard antics and that, with a little guidance, everyone could see it too. So enters Zach Hill, he of Hella fame, to replace your former drummer. And Zach Hill, he has a crazy idea: insert quality. Make a song and not just the noisy backwash of a Beach Boys tune. The track was called “Cool Jumper” and it shreds like nothing on King of the Beach
does. It sounds like a Wavves track of substance about
substance, calling out bandwagoners with promises to not “waste your time.”
But King of the Beach
, which was bound for quality in the same way Wavvves
’ backlash was imminent, is just harmless surfer group fun. Which is fine, really. A lot of people will enjoy it for its simple pop pleasures. There’s a lot of talk about friends and backstabbing, and dealing with misery, and just not giving a s
hit when we all know you do, but it all blends into the fabric, a richly textured art project by producer Dennis Herring (who has produced the likes of Modest Mouse) and the former backing band of the late Jay Reatard. You are the means to which these men make an end. You sound like Reatard, and Animal Collective, and Deerhunter and Blank Dogs and whatever. You have progressed to please pleasantly, with your doo-wop backing vocals and adequate boyish croon, set atop belabored hooks. You got BNM’d twice two years in a row
ucking redemption all over the place.
But I stand back with all the doubters who find that replacing some cogs only illuminates what was wrong in the first place. And while most things about King of the Beach
are adequate, some of them great (“Post Acid”; the confessional electro-pop stacked in the middle of the otherwise gross “Green Eyes”; rollicking closer “Baby Say Goodbye”), they sound like the hard work of people going through the motions, trying to stand out of the way of a puppet who takes up the whole frame. That puppet is an inexperienced pop diva riding on a higher authority. King of the Beach
ends up being a comeback album of a different sort: for its label, its fans, Pitchfork. As a debut, it would have barely elicited a ripple. As a comeback album following one of the decade’s most memorable flameouts, it reaches all expectations adequately. But considering the late musician you’re obviously modeled after (and more disappointingly, the Hella-inspired track to which this album seems to forget ever existed), King of the Beach
feels more like an expertly timed marketing ploy.