Just a month ago, when the year was new and the promise of endless discoveries in music raised anticipation for what the year ahead promised, one early contender for hype and giddiness was a one-man San Diego-based band called Wavves. After having released a self-titled album shortly beforehand, Nathan Williams readied his second effort, the slightly differently titled Wavvves for De Stijl Records. But people got to talking, labels got interested, blogs started to rumble, and even before the album had a proper release, Fat Possum scooped up the young San Diegan’s new album and re-packaged it before its penciled-in release date. And here we are, with two promos, with two slightly different tracklists.
You can’t blame Fat Possum for being so eager to release Wavves’ music—Wavvves is easily one of the most exciting things 2009 has to offer thus far. The album is a fuzzy, mega lo-fi collection of 14 surf-gaze tracks, heavy on reverb and distortion, with very little regard for clarity or polish. In a way, it’s almost a romantic reminder of the kinds of records Bob Pollard and Lou Barlow would release in the early ’90s, and the methodology involved here is similar. Williams recorded the album on a computer in his parents’ poolhouse. Yet Wavves has less in common with Guided by Voices or Sebadoh as it does with Times New Viking or No Age, or perhaps a very heavily static-washed Jesus and Mary Chain.
In the midst of all the fuzz on Wavvves, there are glorious harmonies galore. Williams knows his way around a melody, and offers up 14 of them, each one instantly memorable and ridiculously catchy. However, they happen to be bathed in distortion. But this should serve as no major detriment; in fact, it’s that heavy layer of effects that truly makes this album stand out. While the melodies are truly the core of the album, without the buzzing, squeaking, squelching overdrive, something would definitely be missing.
Wavvves starts off abstractly but intriguingly with the instrumental bleeps of “Rainbow Everywhere,” reminiscent of some of the instrumental tracks on No Age’s Weirdo Rippers. But from there, “Beach Demon” finds Williams bursting into a powerful, muscular punk rock song with speakers on the verge of exploding. “To the Dregs” reveals a Beach Boys/Jesus and Mary Chain influence in its sunnier, melodic sound, though one no less steeped in noise. “Sun Opens My Eyes” adds some shaking hand percussion and free-flowing riffs to the equation, making for an exotic standout. And did I mention that it’s nearly impossible to figure out what Williams is actually singing in all of this? It really is.
“So Bored” is absolutely fantastic, with soaring melodies and a propulsive beat, while “Goth Girls” returns to a psychedelic instrumental playground. This is the first of five tracks with “Goth” in the name, including first single “California Goths,” a reasonably unfussy track, with distortion mostly thrown over the vocals while the guitars hammer out a simple melody. “Summer Goth” is a bit messier, with a riff seemingly pulled from a Kurt Cobain demo, and “Beach Goth” tones it down somewhat in favor of a meditative kind of shoegazer sound. And “No Hope Kids” is a new kind of generational anthem for the aimless, with Williams declaring “got no car, got no money!”
Though the amount of buzz that Wavves has been kicking up in such a short amount of time is plentiful, it’s entirely warranted. Wavvves is a noisy, raucous and fun record, not hiding behind its effects but rather playing and reveling in them. Kudos to Fat Possum—I can’t think of a reason why anyone wouldn’t want to release this album.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.