The blogosphere kept a close eye on Wavves front man Nathan Williams after 2009’s infamous Barcelona Breakdown. Wavves’ snot-nosed lo-fi punk was built on the pretenses of ambivalence. But after Williams’ very public slip, his nonchalant success seemed to collapse from its fragile state and brought a follow up to Wavves’ first two albums into question. So when the band set an early August release date, the music world began biting its nails, fearing how the on-stage freak out would affect a new product.
For King of the Beach, Williams drops his praised grimy guitar rebellion, opting instead for a Beach Boys-style lightness that softens the band’s still-heavy beach-punk. The result, although not lacking in its fair share of self-loathing and childish disdain for convention, has depth and richness to it that did not exist in their often times shamelessly forward previous albums. Much like his adolescent musings indicate, Williams seems to be equivocating between his angry former sound and dreamy, ethereal tunes that edge toward pop. At its best, King of the Beach feels like an acid trip after rolling on a sandy beach.
The title track heads off the album with the clearest accessibility of the collection. “King of the Beach” bounces and sparks, marking itself as a late blooming summer anthem. The track has a straightforward arrogance that doesn’t muddle the sound, but combines to exemplify modern beach punk. “Super Soaker” and “Idiot” immediately carry on the tone of their predecessor, with darker vocals and guitar rants broken up by chorus style ‘ooh’-ing. While the album is largely made of the same cloth as these stand out tracks, it can, suddenly and without warning, turn into a whole new side of Wavves, dabbling with loose ambiance. Some of these interruptions of sorts function well with the rest of the album, like the looping, carousel-like “Baseball Cards”, while others take on too much of the unfamiliar and end up like “When Will You Come”, which sounds like more of a novelty interlude than a complete song. Not all of Wavves’ new tricks fall flat, though. Closer “Baby Say Goodbye” has a light poppy snap that is certainly a new side of Wavves, but not necessarily too far of a stretch. This final declaration of the new seems to be an entire new singer, showing us innocence instead of insolence.
Williams’ bold step out of his comfort zone could be, in part, to his seasoned rhythm members – Stephen Pope and Billy Hayes of the late Jay Reatard’s band (QRO photos). This addition voided any attempt from Williams to cover himself with a slacker attitude. There are still frequent self-degrading stabs in his lyrics, but the songs have taken a obviously thoughtful approach that the sound previously lacked. King of the Beach is a proclamation that Wavves is back, and with new goals in mind.
MP3 Stream: “King of the Beach”