King of the Beach
has been making the rounds since its digital release in June and most critical accounts of the album have been generally positive. As with the last Wavves album, however, the biggest critics don't seem to be the people who get paid to do it, but rather, the music-consuming public who tend to lob the same set of complaints at Wavves' brief discography: Nathan Williams can't sing, pop-punk suxxx, the only things he sings about are weed and the beach and, to top it off, Williams is a bratty rich kid.
Another aspect of the great Wavves debate focuses on the fact that the music Williams is making is music that has never, in all of music history, really demanded a critical analysis. It's pop punk! It's fun! The band is young, does drugs, and the music they make comes from that simple of a place!
But in the end, it's actually pretty funny that Wavves has inspired so much hate considering how Williams' music should, in theory, synthesize a lot of different strains of music fans. Sure, his musical touchstones include The Breeders and Brian Wilson, but, like some other recent bands, his unironic appreciation of "uncool" genres (90s pop-punk obv) and his appropriation of those signifiers (angsty lyrics and general straightforwardness to name a few) actually push his music into exciting, transcendental places. Of course, Williams' probably listens to as much AnCo as the rest of us, but if he were to say, drop an early Green Day or Blink-182 cover into a set someday, no one would bat an eyelash, get me?
All the meta-conversation aside, King of the Beach
is a knockout and Wavves have produced one of the most listenable, catchy, and fun albums of 2010. The band, now joined by Jay Reatard's (RIP) rhythm section and thoroughly enhanced by a professional-quality studio recording, is tight and confident throughout and Williams' allegiance to pop, which lurked under the murky surface of his earlier recordings, is pushed into overdrive here. "Baseball Cards", with it's squealing synths and sha-la-la's
, is a beautiful psych-pop number and contains the drug-fueled melancholia, paranoia, and beauty present in a lot of the lyrics on Beach
"I don't want to walk outside/'cause where would I go?/I don't know". Later on "Mickey Mouse"-- "I never wanna leave home/everything in the back of my brain told me that I would be sick/when I'm out there". To paraphrase the other songs: my friends hate me, I hate myself (cue Beach Boy ooohs
But most of the time it just rocks, plain and simple, and Williams' new bandmates add some great dynamics that Wavvves
sorely lacked in places -- songs like "Linus Spacehead" (guess what this one's about) and its bubbling bassline and "When Will You Come" with its "Be My Baby" drums are stand-outs on a record full of them. The album only falls flat once on the closer "Baby Say Goodbye" which focuses too much on the band's weak points -- Williams' limited vocal ability, songs longer than about 3-and-a-half minutes -- but it's a minor misstep on an otherwise strong album.
In the end, it's all pretty simple stuff made in a surprisingly affecting way and, hey, if you want it to be, it's mindless, melodic fun -- in other words, when you get tired of trying to like that new avant-drone album, King of the Beach
will be waiting. -ben krusling
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MP3: "King Of The Beach"
Wavves on Myspace