Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I Actually Like: Wavves

For someone with a healthy threshold for low production values and liberal doses of fuzz and feedback, I have to admit that the first time I heard Wavves, I was like "Whoa, that's just unlistenable." It didn't help that the music was described as "surf-punk," which is how every mediocre punk band who plays major chords describes themselves.

But after hearing the band (really just one dude, Nathan Williams) praised everywhere, I figured I'd give the music another shot. And while I'm not completely smitten with Wavves like other bloggers, I'm definitely a fan.

First and foremost, you've got to respect Williams' branding power. With nearly every song featuring the words "California," "weed," "beach," "sun," or "girl" somewhere in the title, you've have to be retarded not to know what's trying to be evoked. Copping Beach Boys riffs and harmonies, Wavves reimagines surf music as scuzzy pop music for teenage skaters and stoners. For me, the music evokes that particularly teenage mixture of joy, anger, and hormones I had back in middle school, the kind of feeling that made my friends and I just randomly decide to destroy this kid's homemade skate park or sneak shots of vodka and practice pogoing to Blanks 77 records.

Whether Williams' songs would hold up as well sans fuzz is a good question, but also kind of beside the point. It's clearly an intentional choice on his part to record with such low fidelity, and it pays off as a tool for distancing the recycled riffs and harmonies from their more clean cut (and cleaner sounding) origins. Just like when Fennesz coats sentimental surfer fare like "Endless Summer" in layers and layers of fuzz and computer glitches, the ultimate effect is a kind of warped nostalgia. Time has roughed up these remnants of an idealized past and there is no going back. As well, the purposely ugly nature of some of the sounds puts into question whether surf music and surfer culture were as innocent as they appeared.

Underneath it all, Wavves is pop music. And while some of the material off his first album Wavves can be so fuzzed out it's difficult hear much beyond a basic caveman surf melody, everything I've heard off his second album, Wavvves, has just the right mixture of surfer harmonies and fuzzed out punk.