Monday, March 16, 2009

Album: Wavves - Wavvves

Album: Wavvves
Fat Possum, 2009
Rating: ********* (9/10)

In 2008, Wavves, the vehicle of San Diego-based Nathan Williams, put out a self-titled album (only two v's) on the very underground label Woodsist. A raw, ultra-lo-fi burst of punk and surf recorded on a four-track in Williams's bedroom, Wavves won my respect from its first note on. It made #3 on my "Best Albums of 2008" list and has been in heavy rotation on my stereo since I first heard it.

I wasn't the only person to fall in love with Williams's independent, self-assured sound. Since the release of Wavves, he's shown up on Pitchfork Media, signed to Fat Possum and started touring. It was inevitable that such a rapid and dramatic change would affect Williams's music. But I'm happy to report that so far, all the success has changed Wavves in only the best possible way.

Wavvves has all the fuzzy lo-fi roar of the first album, with drums, vocals and guitars buried and blended under layers of distortion. However, this time around Williams obviously had more recording resources, or at least more time. The sound is better controlled and crafted, with more layers of guitar, percussion and vocals on many songs.

Moreover, the songwriting itself has vastly improved from the first album. Though Wavves had a few really great tracks, many others were simply unmemorable. On average, Wavvves has better hooks and melodies, better lyrics and better compositions. "Beach Demon" starts out with a veil of noise that's almost beautiful, giving way eventually to a brilliant reprise of the song from the first album. "Sun Opens My Eyes" opens with a bold, clattering beat and "Summer Goth" even has a slight swing.

But Wavves is still Wavves, the ultimate disaffected southern California youth. Songs like "So Bored" and lyrics like "I'm getting high / to pass the time" are reminiscent of the suburban angst that gave rise to California's 80's hardcore scene. Sometimes (for example, on the obviously-titled "No Hope Kids") the whole "I'm a slacker from California" thing feels a little like overkill. But for the most part, Wavves manages to be an epitome of youth culture in a way that still sounds fresh. This is everything punk rock should be - stubbornly independent, unabashedly young and hella noisy. Props.

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