Surf rock is always in season
Straight from the dungeons of L.A., Wavves are releasing Afraid Of Heights, their fourth album and first on the Mom + Pop and Warner Bros. labels. Now a duo consisting of guitarist Nathan Williams and bassist Stephen Pope, they sound bigger, brasher, and shockingly more professional than ever on Afraid Of Heights which positions the band to take their rightful place amongst the pop-punk gods. You know the story by now. Bored dude in his parents' tool shed-turned-room with no insulation and a record stuck to a hole in the wall to keep the mice out turns on a four-track recorder, fucks around and ends up with two of the oddest, noisiest, and downright catchiest albums in recent memory.
Those two records (the eponymous Wavves the eponyymous Wavvves) were winningly, messily chaotic-grand on a small scale, but not necessarily world-beaters. Which is why when Williams, then solo, linked up with erstwhile Jay Reatard sidemen Stephen Pope (bass) and Billy Hayes (drums) and busted the door down with the stunner that was King Of The Beach, a pop-punk blackout for the DeLonge and Deleuze crowd. After the smoke of King Of The Beach had cleared, Williams and Pope released the Life Sux EP, a testament to the crushing powers of rock n' roll and also ennui.
The product of more than a year of writing and recording, Afraid Of Heights expands the Wavves sound while remaining true to the band's original vision - it was created with absolutely no label involvement, a specter that nearly derailed King Of The Beach. Working with producer John Hill (known for his work with M.I.A. and Santigold, as well as with hip-hop acts such as Nas and the Wu-Tang Clan), the band found a willing party in creating what they felt was the truest expression of what they wanted. As for the Afraid Of Heights sessions themselves, Williams paid for them out-of-pocket, explaining his reasoning with, "In doing so, I had no one to answer to. We recorded the songs how and when we wanted without anybody interfering, and that's how it's supposed to be."
Lyrically, Williams took the focus less off of his own melancholy and out into the world, with songs that dealt with crooked preachers ("Sail To The Sun"), relationships ("Dog") and killing cops ("Cop"). Even when he reaches outside his own damaged psyche, Williams is still making Wavves songs, saying, "The general theme of the record is depression and anxiety, being death-obsessed and paranoid of impending doom. I feel like the narration is almost schizophrenic if you listen front to back; every word is important, even the constant contradictions and lack of self-worth. That's all a part of this record-questioning everything not because I'm curious, but because I'm paranoid." That paranoia manifests itself on many of the album's best tracks, such as the spacey drones and bummazoid vibes of the Weezer-referencing, getting-drunk-because-you-can't-bring-yourself-to-care-vibey "Afraid Of Heights," or the string-aided "I Can't Dream," which rounds the record out with the optimistic, "I can finally sleep," before subverting itself with, "But I can't dream." With their biggest and boldest-sounding record yet, Wavves might have finally come into their own, a fully-realized punk rock force in both sound and vision.