Wavves Hit Their Stride
Essentially still in its infancy, Nathan Williams’ one-man show of hedonism, nihilism, and every other gritty punk adage finely produced and backed by a rotating mix of studio and touring musicians, is finally gaining the type of head-scratching acclaim fit for an academic discussion. Not that Wavves’ latest offering, Afraid of Heights, is anything to scoff at. Already compared to Nirvana and Weezer (mutual shout-outs to NME and SPIN for those), Williams is looking to make a name for himself outside of his contemporaries and as an extension of his larger-than-life personality. Opening track “Sail To The Sun” starts off light enough, with a smattering of chimes coming on like a hot air balloon ride, but once Wavves hits the chorus, all bets are off.
One thing that Afraid of Heights isn’t lacking is finesse. Despite their inebriated live shows, which tend to be par for the course at this point, every break and wail is a calculated effort of what Wavves can really do. “Demon To Lean On” veers on the poppy side of things à la early Green Day, with maybe the happiest case of being held at gunpoint ever heard in a song. “Dog” marks the only real love song of the album, and a surprising one at that. Those chimes come back to dance around a cascading bass riff, its chorus all harmonies and acoustic guitar. Who knew Williams had a sweet side?
The eponymous “Afraid of Heights” almost completely justifies those aforementioned comparisons. Nowhere is Williams more Cobain, more Cuomo, than in this tidal wave of vocals. For stoner music, Wavves find themselves with very few meandering spots, instead swapping the cheeky complacency of King of the Beach for a generally well-rounded record. Afraid of Heights takes Wavves from endearing wunderkind to precocious professional. But don’t worry about missing what first hooked you on Williams’s catchy brand of simple lyrics and wicked fun beats. The latter half of the album, especially “Cops” and “Gimme a Knife,” bring it all back. Now if only they could find the right mix of drugs to keep it together live.