Photo: Flickr / Jeanra C.

Wavves – ‘V’

wavves-v-new-albumWavves return with their fifth album, the aptly named ‘V’, a consistent, easy listen and a stellar collection of anthemic pop-punk tunes.

After 2013’s uneven Afraid of Heights and this year’s decent but unmemorable Cloud Nothings collab album No Life for Me, long-time Wavves fans would be forgiven for thinking that the band’s best days are behind them. Yet V is a real return to form for the Nathan Williams-fronted group. One of 2015’s easiest listens, the album breezes by in a zippy 31 minutes, not letting off on the tempo for a second.

Musically, the album is Wavves’s simplest yet. Wavves’s roots in surf rock and garage rock take something of a back seat and gone are the Animal Collective-like psychedelic synth experiments of 2010’s King of the Beach; what remains are lean pop-punk earworms. No wheels are reinvented here; the guitars are suitably distorted, fast and melodic, and Williams’s lyrics present him as someone who would make Holden Caulfield look well-adjusted. Full of angst and confused self-loathing, Williams seems as miserable as ever: “Have I lived too long? / Why does my head hurt?”, opener ‘Heavy Metal Detox’ moodily asks (Wavves’s frontman seems rather preoccupied with his head; another track is straightforwardly titled ‘My Head Hurts’). But Williams’s latest cause for existential dread is allegedly his recent break-up. Relationship woes certainly permeate the album: “I’ll always be lost without you” (‘Pony’), “You don’t know what you mean / To me, to me, to me” (‘All The Same’), “I bet she doesn’t know my name” (‘My Head Hurts’). These sentiments are not exactly subtle, profound or original, but they serve their purpose; and with choruses as anthemic as those on offer on V, who needs nuance?

Williams’s lyrics present him as someone who would make Holden Caulfield look well-adjusted

Indeed, almost every song on the record boasts a chorus so catchy that you can practically hear gig crowds shouting them back at the band already. Williams and his bandmates clearly have a keen sense of vocal melody, allowing them to transform their pop-punk-by-numbers lyrics into impassioned (if ultimately asinine) rallying cries for a disaffected generation Y. ‘Wait’, one of the album’s finest tracks, makes good use of a quiet/loud dynamic, with a tense, bass-driven verse that explodes into cries of “I don’t wanna wait! / I don’t wanna wait here!”. It’s genuinely invigorating, and the subsequent track ‘Tarantula’ matches it in intensity with its stop/start refrain of “Every morning / Toxic waste / Everything sucks / If you don’t get your way”.

In an album as consistent as V, it is difficult to pick highlights, but the opening five tracks are worth noting as particularly tight and well-executed. A couple of the tracks here do pale in comparison to others – ‘Redlead’ and ‘Heart Attack’ don’t particularly have much interesting to offer – and it could be argued that the LP is too short, but better to keep it brief than to overstay one’s welcome, I’d argue; incorporating more tracks would only end up diluting the strength of the album.

Overall, V is Wavves at their most accessible and most straight-forward, and they pull it off with panache. The album is an ideal starting point for those who’ve never listened to the band before, too – just be sure to leave your brain at the door and crank up the volume.


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