Wavves – King of the Beach, Album Review

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Giveaway: Kind of the Beach on Vinyl LP and CD ?


I used to hate Wavves. I didn’t hear anything worth tuning in for from Nathan Williams’ first two releases – the self-titled Wavves and nearly self-titled Wavvves – and my plan was to continue not caring about his overhyped noise for the next few years, letting Wavves slip away into the fog of oblivion and self-interest. Some of that original distaste still remains today – Williams has been enough of a trainwreck to convince me not to give a damn about him, personally. Musically, though, disinterest is no longer possible.

Because King of the Beach is a massive step forward that is impossible to ignore. It’s brash where its predecessors were abrasive, an energetic album that is more about celebrating the ability to piss of the world than actually doing it. Where Wavves and Wavvves slogged under layers of distortion and poorly mixed instrumentation, King of the Beach swims through echoing vocals and downright peppy guitars. Williams hasn’t lost his edge; these songs still have a ballsy jangle that separates them from the beach bum chillwave scene. They’re just listenable for a change.

Williams and Wavves owe much of this positive change to a new supporting cast – Stephen Pope and Billy Hayes, formerly members of Jay Reatard’s backing band, joined up on bass and drums for King of the Beach. The duo bring a directed backbone to Williams’ songs, turning wandering muck into songs with a purpose, even if that purpose is to hang out and feel bad about yourself. And that, largely, seems to be the purpose of the album. Williams alternatively wallows in self-pity and stands as the album’s titular King of the Beach. On “Take on the World,” Williams confesses, “I hate my writing…and I hate myself, man”; on “King of the Beach” he cockily maintains, “You’re never gonna stop me”; on “Green Eyes,” he laments (or is it celebrates?) the fact that his friends hate his guts.

The schizophrenic confusion is apt. Wavves has transitioned from no-fidelity to sunny, punky pop, and I’m sure Williams – along with his listeners – doesn’t know what happens next. I’m not sure what’s to come either, since Wavves doesn’t seem like the type of band to stay still for too long. Whether Williams retreats from the sun into his garage or stays long enough to get a tan remains to be seen – the only difference is that now a bunch more people will care. Words by Chris Barth.

83 — [Rating Scale]

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