Words by Taylor Hobson

2009 could have easily been the beginning and end of Wavves. Last year’s Wavvves was one of the most overhyped albums in recent history, fueled less by quality music than web-friendly buzz. Many were enamored with the idea that superfluous letters might be to buzz bands what “wolf” titles were several years before.

Wavves brought little to the table that really worked. The 90s throwback drone of Nathan Williams’ vocals already had a more successful counterpart in No Age. As for the concept of clearly defined pop melodies paired with abusively corrupted and grainy production, there was an abundance of artists who have accomplished more euphoric ends with that juxtaposition, namely Times New Viking and, more recently, Best Coast. Whether you followed them with interest or resented their underground publicity, the prospect of Wavves’ petering out after Williams’ public breakdown seemed an appropriate if not welcome end.

And out of all this chaos, the band comes out with an album the next year that improves upon every mark missed on Wavvves. I didn’t ask for it, nor did I even expect it, but I like it very much.

King of the Beach is an entirely unexpected knock on my front door by Nathan Williams himself with a sincere apology, a simple yet handsome arrangement of flowers, and an album of catchy songs whose washed-out production propels rather than obscures its innate bliss.

As of 2010, we’ve surely been through enough sonic messiness to avoid being shocked by a nasal voice, jangling rhythms, or super-distorted guitars. King of the Beach finds Wavves pausing to take a necessary breath and ultimately employing all these elements (and more) with care rather than reckless overuse. Opener “King of the Beach” sets the atmosphere for the albumwith a balance of pushing grit and bright tonal bursts.

They haven’t simply started from scratch, either: “Take on the Word” improves upon melody and cleans up the messy clutter of previous recordings without eliminating the trademark modulating “ooh ooh oohs” from between lines in each verse. “Linus Spacehead” asserts those childishly simple rhymes (“my feet / are asleep”), though now supports them with a less ironic sound, with a result that’s endearing rather than obnoxious. Wavves also passes the litmus test bands of their ilk, announcing “When Will You Come” with a “Be My Baby” kick-and-snare drum intro that actually builds with enjoyable layers rather than simply invoking a dreamy pop reference just to fall short in producing an interesting song.

At times, King of the Beach pushes even further than expected, reaching the ethereal, electronic aura conquered lately by Panda Bear and Atlas Sound, as with the playful beeps that drive “Convertible Balloon.” But in the end they save themselves from unsuccessfully pursuing yet another popular trend, as “Green Eyes” abruptly appears to reassure us that Wavves still incorporates all the slacker sludge, albeit with a clarity of vision that proved much too difficult an achievement in their previous work.

“King of the Beach”
Fat Possum Records
© August 3rd, 2010



TheWaster.com | West Coast