King Of The Beach, 2010
After a few tours, leaked tracks and a brief tease of a possible album ‘Babes’, a collaboration between Nathan Williams and Zach Hill- indie’s favourite drummer known for his erratic style of drumming (which coincides unusually well with Williams’ laidback style) and most notably known for math rock duo Hella and industrial hip hop group Death Grips, it was evident that the indie world’s demand for Wavves was at an all-time high. However, Nathan and Zach’s brief stint was short-lived and the duo’s anticipated album was cancelled.
However, the disappointment at the collab’s annulment was also short-lived; by November 2009 the Wavves line-up had been updated - following what fans and critics dub the “Primavera Meltdown” during their disastrous set at Spain's Primavera Sound Festival in 2009, whereby a combination of intoxication, difficult soundcheck, foul moods and growingly impatient crowd resulted in the pelting of shoes and bottles, the onstage resignation of pissed off drummer Ryan Ulsch, a resignation which, to uproarious applause from the audience, also featured the drummer pouring his beer over Nathan Williams head, and subsequently, the cancellation of their European tour. The new line-up consisted of drummer Billy Hayes and bassist Stephen Pope, formerly of the late Jay Reatard’s garage band; the new line-up sparked the hopes of a possible new album.
Those hopes were fulfilled when in August of 2010, their third album, ‘King of the Beach’ was released on Fat Possum Records. This new Wavves album displayed the most radical change compared to their last two albums, most notably in production: this was Wavves first studio-produced album; a ballsy move given the reputation their scuzzy DIY production had earned them. This album’s cleaner production, courtesy of Modest Mouse producer Dennis Herring, really brings a lot of clarity to the songs, accentuating the hooks and each component of the songs- punchy bass, huge drums and William’s trebly, maxed-out guitar and vocals shining through; ergo eliminating the issue the last two albums had and allowing the listener to distinguish each song instead of each one blending into a scuzzy, raspy haze. Although the album’s production method strayed from Wavves’ first two records, to the relief of Wavves fans- although cleaner, this album’s sound did not stray far from the unkempt noise pop, and experimentalist aesthetic they had come to expect of the SoCal band. Lyrically, Williams displays marginally more sophisticated songwriting, although the approach isn’t anything too artsy and ambiguous, there is power in its directness. KOTB still features the same coming-of-age themes of apathy and self-loathing that are prominent on the tracks that veer towards the 90s pop punk side of the Wavves spectrum – tracks such as ‘Idiot’, ‘Post Acid’ and ‘Take On The World’, as well as the Williams’ brighter, sunnier side, with constant references to going to the beach, (as if the album title wasn’t obvious enough) in the song ‘King of the Beach’, and smoking weed (think the THC-infused ‘Linus Spacehead’).
The album is home to the most all-out ballsy tracks such as ‘Green Eyes’, an anthem of self-loathing and apathy that is testament to Williams’ almost poetic bluntness in his songwriting, ‘Post Acid’ a straight up trippy ode to doing drugs and having fun; yet it also features a more varied style in the Wavves catalogue, with tracks ditching the whole “guitar, bass and drums” thing in favour of synthesizers and drum machines on the tracks ‘Mickey Mouse’, an anxiety-based almost orchestral track featuring a plethora of synthesized brass instruments; ‘Baseball Cards’, a swirling, hypnotizing track with phasing synths, ‘sha la las’ and finger snaps; and ‘When Will You Come’, although my least favourite track on the album, a more Beach Boys-influenced, breezy track which includes Williams’ falsetto vocals, bells and tambourine taps.
Overall, my favourite Wavves album, the most refined album at that point, and the one that definitely outlines Wavves’ “Blink-182 meets Beach Boys” aesthetic that is commonly associated with them and holds up even today.