The Verge: Wavves

Welcome to The Verge: a column dedicated to music on the edge of a breakthrough. If I’m weary of ripping off the BBC, I absolutely loathe doing the same to Pitchfork. Anyway, here’s a band who has had some blog love for quite a while, but now is actually worth all the hype.

For the last couple of years, Wavves has been a bit of an underground shitshow. Bandleader Nathan Williams rode the Pitchfork hype (no pun intended) from his bedroom to the mainstage. And predictably, everything came crashing down – Behind the Music style – including a drug-addled performance at the 2009 Barcelona Primavera Sound Festival and a drunken brawl with the Black Lips. After some cancelled tour dates, Williams emerged from 2009 with a new backing band: the rhythm section of the late Jay Reatard, another noisy rock sensation with similarly outsized drama.

With that said, Wavves is polarizing. Some find the blog love unwarranted; others are equally turned-off by the dramatics. But with the recent release of King of the Beach, Wavves might turn haters into believers.

The band’s last record, Wavvves, was pure noise-pop and not entirely serious; Williams crammed “Goth” into five titles, with gratuitous mentions of California’s sun, beach and weed throughout. King of the Beach continues to mine the oh-so-popular surf rock milieu, but with much more focus. If this is to be Williams’ Nevermind, Wavvves was his Bleach (a comparison also made elsewhere). And just how moving from a $600 studio session to recording with Butch Vig allowed Nirvana to tighten their compositions and let Kurt’s writing shine, the introduction of professional recording into the Wavves sound is what will take them to the next level.

Right off the bat, King of the Beach presents Wavves in a new light: intelligible! The title track finds Williams defiant and cocky, as expected: “You’re never gonna stop me (x4) / the king of the beach.” Next, “Super Soaker” jumps between the combo of a terrific start-stop rhythm and Williams’ falsetto, and a wall-of-noise that sounds like early Jimmy Eat World.

The self-loathing over power chords of “Idiot” (“I’m not supposed to be a kid / but I’m an idiot / I’d say I’m sorry / but it wouldn’t mean shit”) and the quiet-loud-quiet dynamics of “Green Eyes” are not going to stop the Nirvana comparisons any time soon. Similarly, the rollicking “Post Acid” leads with a blue-era Weezer melody, even if it packs in considerably more feedback and reverb.

For fans of earlier Wavves, the jangly melodies “Baseball Cards” and “Mickey Mouse” should be buried behind sufficient fuzz and effects. “When Will You Come” cops the “Be My Baby” drum line, and its dream pop owes heavily to Phil Spector.

These days, blogs like Pitchfork will make or break your band. For Wavves, the underground community has already done both. Here’s hoping everyone can shake hands and move on, because King of the Beach certainly does.

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