Album Review: Wavves – Wavvves (Fat Possum)


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MP3: Wavves – So Bored

Noise music doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Maybe I’ve been reading too much existential philosophy, but I’ve come to the realization that noise isn’t something a person can understand. Upon full comprehension of the music, you humanize it; you make it your own. You make it something that it’s not.

Noise music is irrational; it’s not supposed to make sense. Once you can claim to know it, you’ve gone about understanding something other than what the sound waves dictate. In this way, noise is something that us logic-bound humans can’t ever truly “get.” It’s beyond me how the stuff gets made; perhaps an absurd mental fixation is what causes a musician to create, or maybe some dude just records whatever sounds “cool” in his basement and then releases it. I’ll probably never find out for sure. I’ve never liked things that I can’t wholly comprehend, and that’s why I’m baffled by the satisfaction I gain while listening to this latest trend: noise-pop.

Wavves are the most recent subject of this ever-fickle hipster favoritism complex. Pioneered completely by a Californian named Nathan Williams, Wavves may just bring some much-needed clarity to the relatively vague term noise-pop. A few listens though his most recent record, Wavvves, will undeniably give you, the listener, one hell of a clue in regards to the nature of the genre. Vocals that sound like they’ve been stored in a tin can for the last thirty years, space-age sonic circuitry from synthesizers of the same era, and the ever-prevalent fuzz guitar of the west-coast surf rock scene are all notable landmarks on Wavvves, my favorite-album-so-far of March.

Even though Wavves’ mission becomes more identifiable with every passing track, the oh-so pervasive vocal outfit has hardly the same story. Though they tend to be the focus of the piece whenever present, distinguishable lyrics on Wavvves are about as common as snowdays in upstate New York. Williams’s childish falsetto may bring all the goodies to would-be ordinary tracks like “So Bored,” but it can also be more than slightly troubling that you aren’t able to interpret ninety percent of what comes of out of Williams’s fuzz-infested mouth.

I will, however, say this right now: the music is fun. For those of us who can get over our (my) incessant need to understand, this is one highly enjoyable album. I have a feeling that words aren’t really important to noise-pop. Like the child next to me on the subway singing out of every key that I’ve ever heard, Nathan Williams probably doesn’t get ants all in his pants because his vocals are too distorted to be understood. It makes no difference what he’s saying, because he’s saying it, damn it, and that’s what counts.

When words do rise above the metallic interior of the music, they have a spectacular result. The smoke-engulfed lens of “California Goths” projects an image of an out-of-control party in 2x speed. You know something horrible has got to happen every rapidly-passing second, you can’t change anything, and then when Williams repeatedly cries, “When I die,” one of the more noticeable lines off the album, the effect is stunning. The impact of his heartfelt delivery is somehow amplified by the layers of fuzz he attempts to break through, an endearing and cathartic chorus to Wavvves’ climax.

Wavves are at their best in the more ambient-oriented tracks. “Goth Girls,” being the prime example, remains adrift in its own disturbed wading pool while an indistinct dissonant screech searches for something above the surface like a lost ghost. It’s a horrifying-yet-sincere piece, the immaculate production is somewhat unexpected considering the lo-fi norm that Wavves establish from the beginning, and it’s a nice surprise.

Opener “Rainbow Everywhere” displays a more optimistic-but-still-uncertain attitude. What I assume is a heavily altered keyboard pounds out echoed notes in a landscape matching descriptions of “the future” circa 1970.

I haven’t the faintest idea of how “Rainbow Everywhere” introduces you to Wavvves. Not even a hint. All I know is that seconds later, “Beach Demon” cycles right on through your speakers, and you’re ready. You want it. There’s more fuzz on its first note than there is on my broken analog-based television, and it’s oh so satisfying. There are elements of chaos amongst order, an almost-too-slow rhythm guitar underneath a solo that doesn’t even come close to making sense, matching bass and backup vocal lines interacting with Williams’s nostaligic falsetto. It all makes for a pretty solid pop song.

And that’s a major consideration in Wavves’ music. As much as Nathan Williams is trying to make noise music, he’s also going for pop. He ends up with an album of consistently entertaining surf-pop drenched in fuzz. Wavvves is equal parts experimentation and calculation. It’s a good mix, really. Give it a shot.

Label: Fat Possum

Release Date: March 3 2009

Track List:

1. Rainbow Everywhere
2. Beach Demon
3. To The Dregs
4. Sun Opens My Eyes
5. Gun In The Sun
6. So Bored
7. Goth Girls
8. No Hope Kids
9. Weed Demon
10. California Goths
11. Summer Goth
12. Beach Goth
13. Killr Punx, Scary Demons
14. Surf Goth

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2 Responses to “Album Review: Wavves – Wavvves (Fat Possum)”

  1. Brett says:

    Wavves plays the Zodiac next Thursday

  2. Greg Szeto says:

    yep, that’s why we reviewed them =)

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