We might be jumping the gun on Wavvves reviews, but Ryan Schreiber told the television that Wavves was one of his most anticipated albums of 2009. What his website won’t have is two reviews a month and a half before the release date. (Suck it.)
Besides Pitchfork noticing this San Diego based band, Wavvves is an important record because it ushers in the next generation of fuzzed out surf/garage rock, effectively taking it back to the beaches. For much of the past decade, Atlanta and the Midwest have dominated the lo-fi rocker scene on a national scale. Yet, California despite informing the genre, has gone largely ignored up until the arrival of last year's champions of the Smell. Wavvves is not the only surf rock album to come out of California of late, but it’s the one that will break.
As our heroes of two years removed get cleansed from exposure, this record makes sense. If Bradford Cox is going to announce his punk days numbered and clean off his guitars, if the Black Lips are going to learn their instruments and write Neil Young songs, then how will we get our rock done dirty in a dust cloud, distorted into a noisy oblivion? Enter Nathan Williams.
Sure, the vocals on “Beach Demon” are about as intelligible as a high school battle of the bands, but when Williams hits the bridge refrain “goin’ to nowhere,” a shibboleth lifts from the distortion. One of my favorite songs last year was Deerhunter’s “Nothing Ever Happened,” particularly its layered guitar outro. It played as a celebration counter to Cox's despondent lyrics. Similar in angsty nihilism is “So Bored,” which mimics the formula with less bravado. Williams might cry woe for boredom, but his guitar joyfully ululates for merriment. Confession: I can’t help but feel that I enjoy lo-fi surf rock, and so should you, because its reckless abandon, senseless eardrum scathes, and down-n-out psalms are as comforting as that first touch of sun on my skin in the morning.
On “Sun Open My Eyes” Williams proves he has different speeds beyond heavy stomp, blistering guitar and falsetto chorus. The crawl of “Sun Open My Eyes” recalls a Native American drum ceremony, while the guitars roar in spacious repetitions. Sometimes the lo-fi can stand in the way. I would love to hear the words on “Sun Open My Eyes,” but that aching curiosity deflates one of the best songs on the album.
Unfortunately, this is the line in the sand. Getting upset with the potential dishonesty in lo-fi recording is a discount of the imagination. Surf Rock was built on slight of hand, through the tall tales of mysterious amplifier damage that caused Link Ray’s “Rumble” and Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88.” Williams might as well tell us he created his album on a black market Fischer Price My First 4-Track machine.
Wavvves is not quite as gutturally visceral as early Black Lips (see:”You're Dumb”), instead it thrives in a lackadaisical coastal state of mind wherein the shoddy sound quality emphasizes that we're previewing a new artist in his infantile state. Williams has a wave of hype to eventually ride into career-minded artist waters, time to dwell on how to record his drums like The Beatles. For now, let's let Wavves be how I like my vodka: no OJ, no straw, if you’re gonna give it to me, give it to me raw.