Label: Fat Possum/Bella Union Release date: 03/08/10 Official Site Buy: Amazon In order to understand King Of The Beach fully, its place in the Wavves discography, and why it makes sense, one must first understand Wavves. Wavves the band, Wavves the album, Wavves the man: the Trinity that together forms Nathan Williams, Voltron style. More than just some stoned skateboarder obsessed with the beaches of his hometown of San Diego, Williams has made a career out of exploiting his own pathos and irony while maintaining a generally “sunny” image and writing songs about everything from his own issues to his life experiences encapsulated in a shell of no-fi, simple lyrics, and pounding chords. The year is 2008. The month is August. From here, I will explain the path of Wavves in relation to my own life. As a person who has been through the love-hate-love thing with this band, I feel a connection to this discography and have analyzed it far too much, but that side note now aside we shall focus on the music. So August 2008, the word comes from Woodsist Records that a new cassette would soon be shipped called Wavves by a band called Wavves. As a fan of the label since 2007, primarily thanks to At Rear House and a blog called OngakuBaka, I was excited to hear the latest music from a good label. So I waited two weeks, and (sure enough) OngakuBaka posted the cassette rip on RapidShare. A ballsy move, but nothing new in terms of the blog’s standards or the music sharing community, save for the people who downloaded this bizarre tape. Gone were the dulcet tones and simple yet catchy melodies of Woods, replaced by thick distortion, Ronettes vocals, and even catchier choruses than imagined. “I wanna see the waves, the waves, the waves” shouted the third track, a mission statement, a life goal, a titular track, before going on to more outré songs like ‘Spaced Raider’ and ‘The Boys Will Love Us.’ It was an impressive mission statement, a call to arms for the shit-fi surf scene that didn’t exist in a world before witch house and when lo-fi was just starting to make a major comeback in the more mainstream indie (which sounds contradictory, but you know it isn’t). Months later the LP version of Wavves dropped, augmented with two extra songs (‘Loser Year’ and ‘Here’s To The Sun’), and suddenly people started to find out about Wavves a little more. Before the release of Wavvves (hereafter called 3Vs), buzz began to build thanks to the media juggernauts at Pitchfork. Williams had played no shows yet, and only presented himself as a sunny stoner who liked the ‘60s and rap (via his blog GHOST RAMP). Then he decided to release his second LP in less than six months. Immediately 3Vs became a thing, proclaimed as being the Best New Music that week by P4K, and led to a forced amount of exposure. Suddenly Wavves was no longer that cool project I knew of as a cassette. He was a “thing.” Sure the Beach Demon/Weed Demon single had been out for a while (and I still love that 7”), and the To The Dregs single had been announced, but then there were these claims that ‘So Bored’ and ‘No Hope Kids’ were anthems for the burnt out armchair existentialists that dominate the hipster youth. Williams was forced to play shows out of hype necessity, a move that broke his image and instead made him look, well, kind of bad. His live performances were sloppy, unhinged, poorly rehearsed, and embarrassing. His friend and drummer Ryan Ulsh didn’t help, often playing the same thing but unaided by the layers of noise that could turn drums into tonal instruments instead of an onslaught of percussive annoyance, and Nathan had yet to hone his live vocals, often sliding in and out of key on the same word in place of his solid falsetto vocals and hook laden choruses. Then Barcelona happened. I hated Wavves before it was cool. When he became popular thanks to P4K, I revisited 3Vs and was appalled at how little progress was made after Wavves. It was the backlash of other people crowding my discovery, the discovery of a few dozen people, and the music that had playlisted a winter of uneventful personal creativity. It was the music I wanted to dominate my life at a time suddenly becoming the music that was cool to have dominate your life only because somebody said it was OK. But Barcelona changed that – Wavves fucked up hardcore. He lost his drummer in the middle of a set because he lost his shit, but we all know the story. I was in the right now, though. My hatred of Wavves was now “correct,” as everybody hated him for being a self-centered dick who cared more about getting wasted and frittering away an incredible opportunity than advancing himself in his career of choice. One Zach Hill stint later, Wavves was in a rut for former fans. Hill’s drums never meshed, an issue only exacerbated by his penchant for more flowery fills in live settings and Nathan’s sub-par Animal Collective biting demos like ‘Mickey Mouse’ (which I will get to later) and ‘Cool Jumper’ that seemed to imply a more ambient heavy setting for the three chord assaults that were the Wavves calling card. Fast forward to the death of Jay Reatard. For whatever reason, Reatard’s ex-band joined forces with a piss-poor (in terms of recent output) Williams, and the reports indicated a change for the better. Shows seemed more constructed and actually seemed to be about music. Wavves went into the studio – a real studio, not a garage – and aligned with hi-fi forces. The results spoke for themselves. ‘Post Acid’ was cathartic. The trademarks of Wavves were there – simple riffs and sequences, a chorus built around a simple hook you could scream over and over again, drugs, and a feeling of levity. Sure the lyrics are about being fucked up and sad, but that’s only in line with Wavves, an artist who has lyrically exploited his own weakness and extreme pathos to great effect. Look at King Of The Beach’s song ‘Idiot.’ As oft mentioned, it’s a self-loathing anthem that only reaffirms that Williams does not give a single fuck. He’d apologize if it meant anything, but he’s too wrapped up with being high, hating himself, hearing how he messes up, and writing songs about the typical things. And that’s where the new album really shines. Without the crutch of distortion, the lyrics and instruments have room to move, resonate, and interact. Gone are moments of nothingness like ‘Spaced Raider’ and ‘Rainbow Everywhere,’ instead using real electronic influences to make genuinely bad songs (I’m looking at you, ‘Convertible Balloon’). In the place of dropout boogies like ‘No Hope Kids’ you have pop about hanging out (the title track, amongst others). And then there’s ‘Mickey Mouse.’ Originally the demo was 5’30” plus – excessive for a Wavves song. Now pared down to a manageable 3’53”, the song marks the first major change for the cleaned up sound that isn’t a throwaway. Yes, the songs all seem to be more pop-punk/Green Day/Sum 41 inspired, but look at tunes like ‘Gun In The Sun,’ or ‘Summer Goth.’ Such music is what William’s was weaned on, and even at his most fuzzed out the influence of those simple propulsive songs is obvious. By allowing the legroom to expand his own creativity (see ‘Linus Spacehead’ as well, one of two songs not solely written by Williams in his entire output), we find the place of this album. Where Wavves and Wavvves showed Nathan Williams as a snotty teen wading through a ‘one man, one laptop’ veil and hindrance, King Of The Beach marks his entrance into adulthood. After two years with Wavves, a broken relationship that has since been repaired, three albums, a few singles, Barcelona, and now a rebirthing (is this Wavves the White?), it is with certainty that I can come out as a Wavves fan. No longer comfortable to hide behind the aegis of “I was there before you” and now no longer fearful of the backlash of declaring fandom in a post-Primavera setting, it is with a newly lightened heart that I declare: “Wavves, I am a fan of your music and believe you will succeed with this new band.” That is a move of surety from a person who has all but left this band for dead after their sophomore release. And while I’m certain people will still hate this album and call it too poppy or too pop-punk, I feel safe in my own headspace knowing that Wavves makes sense with each move. Hopefully this article has also broadened your understanding of Nathan Williams as a musical project, and if not, godspeed thee. Photobucket