Release Date: May 19, 2017
Record label: Ghost Ramp
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
For many people, Wavves seems to have become the type of band where with each new release you know what to expect: killer hooks, angsty lyrics and a healthy dose of attitude. Make no mistake, all three of these ingredients can be found in healthy amounts on the band's sixth LP, You're Welcome, but the new album represents a significant growth in the creative freedom and sonic capabilities of a band that people will continue to be unable to pigeonhole. You're Welcome is the first Wavves album (not counting the group's collaborative LP with Cloud Nothings, No Life For Me) to be released through frontman Nathan Williams' Ghost Ramp label.
Escape from a major label does Nathan Williams the world of good on his eighth album as Wavves. Signs of optimism had already pierced the brat-punk nihilism of his last album for Warners, 2015's V, where supercharged melodies alleviated the slump of morning-after lyrics. But You're Welcome ups his game, injecting infectious doses of glam-punk muscle, melody and engagement into Wavves' trademark surf-punk melees.
No one really talks about it anymore, but it still seems like only yesterday when a drunk Nathan Williams stood on stage at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona and had an epic public breakdown, causing not only the concert goers to pummel him with bottles but media outlets to do the same with metaphorical daggers, declaring that we had seen the end of Wavves before they had a chance to properly ascend. At the time it appeared that Williams and his band had flamed out after only a year of stardom and critical blogosphere praise. But the reason hardly anyone talks about the little Barcelona incident anymore is a testament to what Williams has managed to accomplish in the ensuing years.
It would be something of an understatement to say that Nathan Williams is a busy guy. Along with Wavves-Cloud Nothings collaboration 'No Life For Me', two albums from his Spirit Club project, and most recent Wavves effort 'V', 'You're Welcome' is the fifth LP he's been involved with in the space of two years. It's also significant as the band’s first independent release since 2011's 'Life Sux' EP, through his own Ghost Ramp label.
After a less than pleasant experience releasing their previous album, 2015's V, through Warner Bros., Wavves mainman Nathan Williams decided to move the band over to his own Ghost Ramp label for 2017's You're Welcome and change some things about the recording process. On V, the band had all jammed together in the studio, resulting in their most live-sounding and brightly fun album. This time, Williams began working on his own in the studio, starting the songs off before bringing the rest of the band in one by one to record their parts.
Between two full-length LPs in 2015 and a split single with Weezer last fall, Wavves have had a busy past couple of years. But some time away, however brief, has done the band good, as You're Welcome is the most revitalized Wavves have sounded in quite some time. From the first guitar lick, high-adrenaline opener "Daisy" is infectiously catchy. Succeeding tracks "You're Welcome" and "No Shade" do an equally bang-up job of both resembling and one-upping the grunge worshiping noise pop that's defined Wavves so far.
Wavves has always been a punk band that sounds like they're on the verge of imploding. Since the late '00s, back when the project was just the brainchild of frontman Nathan Williams, the singer has never shied away from his vices. Those habits (namely a penchant for drinking and smoking copious amounts of weed) have informed his writing for better or worse.
Ahead of the release of 2015's V, the Californians signed with Warner Bros. and apparently found the experience a hellish one. Frontman Nathan Williams cited widespread organisational failures as being behind their fallout with the label, as well as more specific post-recording difficulties; the release of the single "Way Too Much" on Soundcloud before Warner Bros.
Nathan Williams began making music in his early twenties . It was deft and reckless, all noise-pop, no seriousness. Wavves was an outlet for the San Diego guitarist to get melodies out of his head and let California punks let loose in the crowd. Several garage-pop veterans have figured out how to uphold youthfulness when leaving their 20s: hone your style into one that can't be mimicked.
Since their 2010-released breakout album, King of the Beach, Wavves has served one main function: as a hook delivery system. This system's been going strong now for several years. So what should be said about the new Wavves album, You're Welcome? It's the Nathan Williams-led power pop band's sixth record, and it finds them basically attempting to make the same hooky, punchy sweet listening experience they've made for nine years.
You're Welcome is Wavves' first album since their acrimonious split with Warner, and first on Nathan Williams' new label, Ghost Ramp - the feeling of independence and defiance is not just peppered throughout the album, but splashed haphazardly. Williams has full creative control once more, for better and worse, and the result is as adrenalised and unfocused as you'd expect. Greater autonomy has allowed Williams to follow his more unusual inclinations, using and creating samples taking inspiration from Cambodian pop, 50s doo-wop, sugary Spector harmonies, and so on.
Unlike many of his fellow bedroom guitarists who started out recording at home, Nathan Williams clearly recognizes that “lo-fi” is an aesthetic best explored by necessity rather than by choice. Guided By Voices, Pavement, and other lo-fi pioneers would have made well-produced studio albums early on in their careers if they could have afforded it, as evidenced by the fact that they did just that once they could. Williams just took Wavves's stoner surf punk in that direction more quickly, and on the band's sixth album, You're Welcome, he still encounters the benefits and pitfalls of emerging from beneath the lo-fi blanket of noise that initially distinguished Wavves.
30 tends to be the age that most of us start getting our shit together (well, some of us) and for Nathan Williams this couldn't be more true. Leaving the shadows behind of Warners he's now set up his own business -- Ghost Ramp -- which is a merchandise store, a solid community, and label wrapped all in one. 'You're Welcome', his first independent release through the imprint, happily sticks two fingers up to the past.