wavveskingofthebeach

In 2009, Nathan Williams’ constant diet was a cocktail of hype and drugs. So, plonked in thick weed fug while garage fans labelled him The New Messiah of DIY indie, he, unsurprisingly, went mad. At Primavera Sound he publicly melted down onstage, finally convincing the still deluded that he was in fact ‘a very naughty boy’, not the chosen one. Anyone could have simply glanced at Williams’ debut album to figure that out though – the disappointment of the year (admittedly so because of the hip media’s unfounded expectancy); an album too woozy and happy to stew in lazy reverb rather than work at developing the half decent melodies and ideas within it. ‘King Of The Beach’, then, is a Horrors-sized U-turn. Bigger even! It’s a defiant record of garage pop that’s pretty, excitable, fuzzy, miserable, brattish and youthful to all the right extents; wholly successful in its attempt to make sure that Williams isn’t forever known as ‘that dude who got done over by his drummer in Spain’ (sticks man Billy Hayes poured a beer on him and left the stage to add to and finally end all the silliness in ‘09).

“You’re never gonna stop me!” yells Williams on the opening, title track, which sees the Californian sing from outside a mire of reverb for the first time and stomp from clean guitars to distorted ones and back again.

He says the whole record is about inspiring people and the sense of “you have this much but you could have so much more, so go and get it”, and while the two certainly aren’t mutually exclusive it sounds like he’s settling a few scores too, with those that built him up and wrote him off.

‘Super Soaker’ is pure youthful exuberance – unaffected and undeterred – while ‘Linus Spacehead’ features Pavement-ish whoo-a-whoos and the refrain, “I’m stuck in the sky, I’m never coming down”, which could either be a lament or a boast. Most of ‘King Of The Beach’ is open to interpretation, in fact, simply because you can finally hear what Williams is singing, along with the swathes of added subtleties that make this record worth far more than one or two listens – the lightly flanged guitars, the varying amounts of overdrive, the grooves of new bassist/occasional-co-writer Stephen Pope. It’s something that perfectionist producer Dennis Herring has no doubt brought to the hazy party, having coaxed melodies out of Modest Mouse before now. And melodies have always been within Wavves, which is what made his previous record such a frustrating wasted opportunity. Here, the inspiration he takes from The Beach Boys and 60s girls groups is bent into the dream-like ‘Baseball Cards’, while layers of sunny backing vocals are a recurring theme that gives ‘King Of The Beach’ its unmistakable Californian feel, even if it was recorded in Mississippi.

Ultimately though, bar wacky pop dud ‘Convertible Balloon’, Wavves still charges around to melodious grungy garage like a man on a cocktail of drugs and hype. Only this time the songs are so perfect it’s justified.

By Mandy Drake

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