I think I may be one of the last bloggers in the world to get round to writing about Wavves, who became something of a ubiquitous presence a few months ago when “Wavvves” first surfaced.
Since then, there’s been some complicated label and release shenanigans (My original promo came from De Stijl, though I don’t think they ever actually released it), culminating in a UK arrival on Bella Union next week. In time for summer, would be the charitable way of looking at this, though you do wonder if some of Wavves’ hipster momentum has been derailed as a result of all the stop-start Transatlantic scheduling.
Not that this is particularly important, of course, but it does mean that I’ve had the time to appreciate better this prickly and entertaining record. “Wavvves” is one of those albums that’s clearly bright and immediate, but which curiously takes a while to make a proper impression on me – hence Wild Mercury Sound being way behind the curve on music like this.
Wavves, also, is a bit snarkier, a bit more brattish, a bit self-consciously cooler than most things I write about. Out of 14 tracks on this debut, five feature the word ‘goth’ in the title (“Goth Girls”, “California Goths”, “Summer Goth”, “Beach Goth”, “Surf Goths”), while other favourites in Nathan Williams’ wryly limited vocabularly include ‘Beach’ and ‘Demon’ (ie “Beach Demon”, “Beach Goth”, “Killr Punx, Scary Demons”, “Weed Demon”). Throw in “Gun In The Sun”, “So Bored” and “No Hope Kids”, and you may be getting the picture.
As it is, that picture turns out to be compellingly simple. Williams is – or at least affects to be – a moody slacker 22-year-old from San Diego who combines moody slacker lo-fi with the sort of heathazed dude-ishness you’d expect – in a clichéd way, of course – from Southern California. Which means, essentially, that he specialises in a kind of bolshy, homebrewed fuzzpop where the cranky noise co-exists with some very sweet-toothed pop tunes and high, more or less in tune, harmonies.
“So Bored” is the prime example of this, along with “Beach Demon” and “Sun Opens My Eyes”, which provokes the perhaps inevitable Beach Boys comparisons (“Don’t Worry Baby” meets “Psychocandy”, briefly). Other obvious reference points involve No Age and shitgaze bands like Times New Viking. But beyond the arch schtick and dreamy evocations of alternately skateboarding in the sun and sulking in your bedroom, Williams has the gifted audacity to be both more directly poppy and obnoxiously noisy than most of his contemporaries.
So while, say, “Gun In The Sun” can resemble an immensely catchy, if severely damaged, “Little Honda”, the likes of “Goth Girls” is an unsteady mix of noise skree and overloaded sequencers set to relentless migraine frequencies. Part of this feels like a pretty juvenile desire to irritate, but it’s saved by Williams’ noise pieces having a vibrant and fairly original aesthetic shape, and by them fitting so well into the overall album, at once racey and dazed. Not quite as cute and subversive as it thinks it is, but every bit as clever.