Remember Wavves? They (well, it was more or less one guy, Nathan Williams, and whoever would back him) were huge in Indieland last summer, the ultimate buzz band of 2009. Then they played some high-profile festivals, totally sucked at those shows, and subsequently seemed to lose some of the goodwill from Indieland's tastemakers.
New Times even used a Wavves song as the focal point of a music feature last year on a young East Valley punk rocker named Danny Dirtnap. After the story came out, I went to check them out at the Rhythm Room. Yawn. The drummer was fantastic, but even his balls-out playing couldn't elevate young Nathan's so-so songs. In the end, it was a 45-minute wall of noise that left much of the surprisingly small-ish crowd as seemingly underwhelmed as I was.
A year later, Williams has a new record called King of the Beach. And what to do you know? It's pretty darn good. Maybe the kid got serious about his craft. Maybe it's the new permanent rhythm section he's got (the exiled bassist and drummer of the late Jay Reatard's band). In the end, it's simply better songs. Much better songs.
Williams diversifies considerably on King of the Beach, going from a one-note blast of hyper-strummed distorted guitar on his debut record to experimenting with dynamics, varying tempos, and compelling arrangements. Whereas his first record was all about trying to find a melody underneath all the clamor, this time the melody is an integral part of the clamor. Make no mistake: Nathan Williams can't sing a lick -- and his Best Coast-ian thematics are nearly insufferable -- but that almost works in his favor on King of the Beach. Previously, Williams came across as a guy who seemed pretty satisfied to have pulled the wool over our eyes and could have a devil-may-care laugh at our fawning over him.
Now, he's got attitude and a chip on his shoulder, and sort of a spirit of overcoming what appeared to be the tale of a buzz act that couldn't live up to the buzz when it mattered.
Oh, and those Jay Reatard guys really do make a difference.
Best song: "Idiot" is one of my favorite songs of the past few months ("I could apologize but it wouldn't mean shit"), and "Green Eyes" ("My own friends hate my guts") is an instant favorite, too. There are a couple of stinkers, but they don't bog down the proceedings too much.
Deja Vu: The roar and melodies of Nirvana meets L.A.'s early-'80s "paisley underground."
I'd rather listen to: Dinosaur Jr.'s You're Living All Over Me
"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.