First Listen: Wavves, ‘V’

By Doug Mosurock  |  NPR

Wavves' new album, V, comes out Oct. 2.
Wavves' new album, V, comes out Oct. 2. Alexandra Gavillet, Courtesy of the artist


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In the last few years, we’ve seen Wavves‘ Nathan Williams wake up, stumble out of bed, emerge as one of the few successes of the late-’00s lo-fi resurgence, and graduate to the big leagues. Still, five albums in, Williams seems as plagued with uncertainty and peril as ever before. He’s enjoyed a rare winning streak from DIY cassette releases through the indie-rock gauntlet, blogs and all, before catching serious attention and landing on a major label.

Through it all, he’s remained remarkably open about his state of being, grafting his emotions onto a restless runaround of high-energy pop-punk and stoner fuzz. His songs roughly represent the equivalent of dumping a month’s worth of antidepressants and a roll of Mentos into a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke and letting it rip. V is loaded with cheerful songs about woes and impediments, afflictions and self-doubt, with multiple references to headaches (physical and otherwise). Along the way, our under-30 protagonist asks himself, “Have I lived too long?” and frets that “I’m getting worse” in “Heavy Metal Detox.” (On a brighter note, in “Pony,” he sings hopefully about how, “It gets better / It better.”) Williams’ compatriot in all this, bassist Stephen Pope, is a first-person witness to these fears, having played for a few years with the late Jay Reatard before joining Wavves.

Williams is careful to leave his mark without smudging the classics: “Flamezesz” lifts a swirly keyboard lead from Trompe Le Monde-era Pixies and plunges it into his wild-eyed darkness (“It’s suicide, uh huh, the way you walk around”), while “Cry Baby” cribs an opening riff as a speeded-up, smoothed-out nod to Pavement‘s “Box Elder.” But Williams’ rambunctious, brutally honest first-person narratives are all his own, the product of his talent and an innate understanding of what it’s like to wander into a world of temptation, knowing that it’s not much safer on the couch.

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First Listen: Wavves, 'V'

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Heavy Metal Detox
Artist: Wavves
Album: V
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