Sunshiney irony After their disaffected debut Wavvves, the San Diego trio fronted by Nathan Williams had a rough 2009, riddled with low-grade rock beefs and a widely publicized onstage meltdown. No one would have blamed Williams for retreating deeper into his quivering fortress of 4-track distortion. But for Wavves’ follow up, he’s come out swinging.
If your internet has been unplugged for the last 18 months or so you may have missed the rise and fall of San Diego-based Nathan Williams, who became an overnight blog darling prior to exploding disastrously on stage at last year's Primavera. Somewhere between the nonexistent recording quality and endearingly apathetic tunes, Williams managed to lay down two LPs in four months, including the word “Goth” in what seemed like every other song title. And he made sure to let us know just how fucked he really was: “Got no god / Got no girlfriend / And I know that neither one want me”.
In the world of independent music, learning on the job is frowned upon. It's easier than ever for kids to make professional-grade records and have them heard, but any sign of weakness-- a lackluster stage show, a questionable interview, a dud follow-up-- and listeners will let you know how duped they feel. Few people know this better than Nathan Williams, who made his buzzy second album Wavvves at his parents' house and spent the rest of 2009 on a badwill tour (live disaster, canceled tour, fistfight) that earned him Lohan/Hilton-levels of derision in certain circles.
RS's verdict on the third album from these Californian noise punksters... Had Brian Wilson grown up in early 90s California listening to Nirvana and Mudhoney, The Beach Boys might have produced something similar to the fuzzed-up, beach-bound, garage rock that punctuates this record. Featuring two members of the late great Jay Reatard’s band – the towering garage rawk that defined his sound is tangible with Wavves too but here left to bathe in the sun and taken for a quick dip in the ocean.
Snotty and self-loathing as ever, even after catching a huge updraft of success, Wavves’ 2010 outing finds indie rock’s Edward Furlong, aka Nathan Williams, in an actual hi-fi studio. Teamed with Counting Crow/Modest Mouse producer Dennis Herring, who approached Williams after a show, King of the Beach finds the overnight blog sensation in a cleaned-up setting. With more recording toys at his disposal, he takes more risks, showing a new dimension to his stoned mind as he breaks away from muddy skate punk and tries his hand at some dense psychedelia.
In the world of lo-fi Nathan Williams is somewhat the infamous celebrity. Ask anybody what they know about his band Wavves and they might tell you about a war of words with Psychedelic Horseshit’s Matt Whitehurst, a bar-room brawl with Black Lips in New York or, maybe the time in Barcelona when, onstage at Primavera, Nathan and his drummer got into a huge argument that led to a drug addled breakdown in front of thousands of festival-goers. If Brooklyn’s punk scene had a version of Heat Magazine, Williams would be its Kerry Katona.
Few people expected Wavves latest album to be this good. The San Diego act started out as the next big thing, but shambolic live performances, underwhelming recordings and onstage meltdowns quickly turned the buzz into backlash. In the blink of an eye, main man Nathan Williams went from being the future of rock to the butt of a joke. It's possible that he took the criticism to heart.
Nathan Williams’ sophomore album, released in 2009 under the moniker Wavves, seemed to approximate our shattered notion of “indie”: a computer-aided record cobbled together in a garden shed with next to no production values. The blogosphere—and crucially, independent label Fat Possum—went silly over this gutsy display of lo-fi DIY, particularly for its revelation that Williams was actually no ramshackle poseur, but a semi-talented artist for whom catchy pop hooks and mastery of the multi-track are part and parcel. Moreover, Wavves proved a welcome antidote to an “indie” scene gutted by the deluge of vacuous ‘80s electro-pop imitators.
The title track of the third Wavves album suggests Nathan Williams has had enough of being the lo-fi guy who's known for cracking up onstage. King of the Beach isn't the work of a seven-stone weakling getting sand kicked in his face; it's supple and muscular garage-pop, with bursts of power breaking across the central riff like, well, waves on the California coast. Throughout the album, Wavves sound cleaner and more certain than before – though as West Coast albums go, this is far from the fidelity of, say, Rumours – and inheriting the late Jay Reatard's backing band has given Williams rather more punch behind him.
There were a lot of bats in Nathan Williams’ beachside belfry (many of them wearing press laminates), and you could see it coming. He didn’t get apprehend by police at a McD’s drive-in or anything, but even a cursory glance at his behavior set off all kinds of alarms, leading up to his final onstage “meltdown” that made music “reporters” feel really, really “important” for a day or two. I remember a particular clip where he’s being followed around by a camera crew for a “feature” (really more of a “stalk”), and he starts laughing a little too hard with a friend and mentioning something about a “weed demon.
After two eponymous albums of snotty, lower-than-lo-fi punk, Wavves (a.k.a. Nathan Williams) finally steps out of his garage to take in some sun and record a proper rock album. That makes King of the Beach a gamble, and not only because the season for bonfires and beach towels is winding down. A performer like Williams has a lot to lose by releasing what is, by and large, an accessible pop-rock album.
San Diego scuzz-rocker overcomes his demons in mesmerising style. Camilla Pia 2010 Nathan Williams has never been one for welcoming listeners into his world with open arms. In fact he’s made things decidedly difficult since the first few Wavves tracks spread like wildfire around the web in 2008. Two hastily thrown together records followed (confusingly titled Wavves and Wavvves, recorded on his laptop and made up of reverb-heavy, rackety sprawl).
Blazed West Coast couple Bethany Consentino (Best Coast) and Nathan Williams (Wavves) seem like the perfect pair: She's got the blissed-out melodies, and he's got the danked-out pop-punk. Best Coast's debut is ostensibly about her boyfriend, if breezy opener "Boyfriend" or the catchy title track didn't make it clear. Consentino's certainly got an ear for a hook, and her trio makes good use of them, but you can only sing about your cat, weed, and loneliness for so many songs.