Wavvves – Wavves

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Wavvves—not Wavves (making that mistake can cost you your reputation)—is the much-hyped second album from 22-year-old San Diegan Nathan Williams.

Like Times New Viking, Sic Alps, etc. Williams deals in a pock-marked, gravel-blasted pop punk that sounds, frankly, a bit like Weezer played too loudly through a poorly tuned-in radio. Which is all well and good, up to a point. Williams has a knack for catchy falsetto vocal hooks, as on the angsty “So Bored”, or “Summer Goth 2″, once heard forever burned into the back of the brain. Williams also manages somehow to achieve the impossible on ‘”Surf Goth”, fusing the seemingly antithetical stylings of both Bauhaus and The Beach Boys. But other songs on the record unfortunately have very little going for them besides being “distorted as fuck.”

Honestly, it is a bit tiresome to hear yet another outfit using distortion as a shortcut to kudos. Whilst it’s true that the studio is an instrument as much as the guitar is, and artists should be able to use it creatively to transform and denature the sound of their instruments, merely recording with every track pushing into the red is never going to save rock ‘n’ roll. It’s no surprise that the blogosphere has latched onto Wavves given the current trend for faux-garage punk, but one can’t help but wonder whether these songs would have been so well received without their contrived lo-fi finish.

Frankly the best bits on Wavvves are where Williams does not revert to type. The abstract synth noodlings on “Rainbow Everywhere” and “Goth Girls” for instance, which sound not unlike the analogue experiments of the Radiophonic Workshop, though with surfaces inevitably roughened by distortion. Or the bizarre filtered vocal and drone experiments on “More Fur”—a strangely incongruous alien transmission. Moments like these hint at a powerful musical imagination at work beneath Wavves’ insouciant swagger.