The fresh new album from Californian indie-noise rockers Wavves is overtly misleading. Sonically, V is vigorous, loud, and at times quite audacious. It’s somewhat aggressive instrumentally, but maintains the happy-go-lucky youthful innocence as previous records from the outfit, particularly 2010’s King of the Beach.
Despite this youthful spirit, the essence of V hides a much darker meaning. It’s definitely the same Wavves you’re already familiar with, although distortion and noise based beach rock blankets a subtext of apathy and self-doubt. Album opener ‘Heavy Metal Detox’ embodies what V sets out to do. With twanging guitars in the intro, front-man Nathan Williams quite blissfully chimes in, quickly outlining his apathy and state of mind. (“I’m not doing anything today/I don’t care what you say.”)
There’s no self-indulgence on the record. Most tracks clock in at under three minutes in length. They’re short, punchy and bursting in energy. The rhythmic and simple guitar intro to ‘Way Too Much’ calls back to earlier Ramones records, highly reminiscent of intros to tracks such as ‘Judy is a Punk’ and ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’. It’s pure, straight and stripped back, and it shows off the energetic pop-punk style that Wavves implements so wonderfully.
‘Pony’ is another standout, and arguably the strongest writing of the album. Williams describes himself as “depressed and bored”, eventually convincing himself, “it gets better”, before expressing his own impatience and perhaps growing frustration by re-affirming with, “it better”. The bouncing bass-line of ‘Tarantula’ allows it to stand out too. The album’s theme continues prominently here, with the chorus ending with an apathetic, “Everything sucks if you don’t get your way”. ‘Cry Baby’ provides an unexpected change of pace, with a guitar noise intro imploding into Williams’ screaming vocals.
‘All the Same’ further exemplifies Wavves’ perfect façade. The track chugs along rapidly with a breezy, optimistic tone, although Williams’ lyrics recount a list of bad things that have happened in his life, and it all seems to link back to one person. (“It’s all in my head again/The things you said.”) ‘All the Same’ is a standout on the record. It’s decisive and self-assured. Its rapid-firing and brash. It’s something you can sing along to mindlessly, although the lyrical content is dark and concerning.
Unfortunately, ‘All the Same’ tends to reflect the album itself, with the title becoming a mantra you may think to yourself as you listen. The individual tracks are all well thought out, although they tend to blend in. As a collective, V begins to feel repetitive. Tracks like ‘My Head Hurts,’ ‘Heart Attack,’ and ‘Flamezesz’ are quite typically Wavves, although they tend not to stand out too much. ‘Redlead,’ however, succeeds in being unique; with its noisy and jagged guitars, and fantastically pitched vocal harmonies.
V is quite a unique album in itself. It feels blissful, carefree and ecstatic, but it’s lyrical ethos screams the opposite. In saying this, Wavves have achieved something quite fascinating to hear. It’s a fierce dichotomy between the album’s instrumental performance and lyrical content. V tackles issues such as apathy, anxiety and depression that aren’t frequently discussed by men. In doing so, Wavves open up a conversation with the listener, and show them that they aren’t necessarily alone.
‘V’ is out now via POD/Warner Music Australia.