Wavves are a band I have followed since I heard their brilliant third album, King of the Beach, it was released to widespread critical acclaim in 2010. The album was a very fun and summery surf-pop album and was very different from their incredibly lo-fi first two albums as it was recorded in a studio with a full band as opposed to lead singer / songwriter Nathan Williams recording it all by himself on his Macbook. The album that came after King of the Beach, Afraid of Heights, was much different as it had a very clear Grunge influence (e.g. Nirvana) and ended up being quite depressing, lyrically, and was a departure from the care-free sound they developed on King of the Beach.
After listening to Afraid of Heights I wondered what direction they were going to take with their next record, little did I know they would be playing it safe with a collection of three minute verse, chorus, verse power-pop tracks. Does this disappoint me? I’m unsure as to whether it does or not because I wasn’t necessarily the biggest fan of Afraid of Heights but I loved their other releases enough to keep on listening and caring about the band enough to actually want something new from them.
Nathan Williams has stated in interviews that he wrote this album after a break-up and it becomes evident with the way Nathan is projecting his emotions on the tracks with the lyrics about how he’s depressed and unmotivated to do anything at all but sit in his house and drink and smoke himself to death. The lyrics definitely aren’t as depressing as they were on Afraid of Heights but they’re forward enough to make the listener easily understand how Nathan is feeling about everything; he even goes to project hope and the fact that things will eventually get better for him in the chorus of ‘Pony‘ along with other tracks on the LP.
It definitely isn’t a long listen at all either, in fact, it’s probably the shortest album of their discography as it clocks in a little more than thirty minutes. I’m not saying that this is bad but the album is too straightforward so it might just completely phase by you due to it’s simple instrumentation and verse, chorus, verse song structure. One thing I really wanted from this album was experimentation because it seems as if they didn’t do any of that all when in their last two releases there was enough of it to prevent you from getting bored of it too quickly. Thankfully, tracks like All The Time, Heavy Metal Detox, Way Too Much and My Head Hurts are catchy enough to stay in your head for days while Heart Attack and the albums closing track Cry Baby are dull and forgettable.
The album has a very tight production and there isn’t much variation as far as the instrumentation, the guitar(s), bass and drums sort of melt together as one but what else did I expect from a Wavves album? Nathan’s vocals are as whiny as ever and they work with everything as they always do; there’s even a part towards the end of Redlead were the instrumentation stops and the vocals turn very atmospheric and choir-like which ended up being a nice detour from the standard formula they worked around on this album.
I didn’t really know what direction they were going to go with for this album but after hearing the surprisingly excellent collaboration album with Cloud Nothings they released during the summer I had hope that they would return to their lo-fi roots (albeit in a listenable fashion); but that wasn’t what we received in the end and I can’t help but feel disappointed about it all.
Wavves have created what is probably the worst album of their career (say what you want about their first two albums but personally, I think they’re fantastic) but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing because most of the songs here are very fun and catchy and would probably be so much better in a live setting than anything. The album does have some very glaring flaws but once you get past them it is a fun listen especially if you don’t take it too seriously. I’m still very excited to see what they’re going to do next (this album is the first in a trilogy) and I hope that whatever they do release will be much better than this and possibly even better than their most celebrated releases, but we’ll just have to wait and see.