This is not exactly a revelation, but the indie rock community is god damned ridiculous. Nathan Williams' third album under the Wavves moniker has been referred to many, many times over as his comeback album - despite the fact that his last album was released a year and a half ago, and his critically acclaimed debut was released not even six months before that. So why? Because, presumably, of a drug-induced breakdown at a show in Spain. Which admittedly, yes, was quite messy. But really now, the logic here escapes me. A guy jumps on the lo-fi bandwagon as it's getting started. In between writing vaguely self loathing songs, he writes other songs about how bored he is with everything, and how stupid everything around him is. Basically, he is an asshole. So after putting out two records full of songs like this, he goes to play a show in Barcelona, and acts like an asshole. People are shocked by this.
In any case, while I am a bit confused as to how this all adds up to Wavves' latest, King of the Beach, being heralded as a comeback album of sorts, the music itself has indeed undergone quite an overhaul. And by overhaul, I mean it doesn't sound like noise being blasted from a shitty cassette deck in a sputtering, near-death car. Which is not to suggest that his early material is unlistenable by any means, but seeing as his second release started to show a bit stronger songwriting (particularly on No Hope Kids and Weed Demon), it's nice to see that take the forefront rather than trying to appeal to the lo-fi trend. King of the Beach is treated to a far more polished production; nothing too fancy, as the songs still retain a very raw element, but everything is much cleaner, and the hooks are able to stand out much better. Right from the opening title track, the clearer production does wonders for Williams' melodies, with the song feeling more likable than nearly anything else in his catalogue. What's more is that Williams is able to try more with his sound than simply making noisy interludes, such as the catchy doo-wop backing melodies throughout, or the full-on embracing of psychedelic pop in places (Williams and co. almost sound like Animal Collective on Post Acid and Convertible Balloon).
King of the Beach is unquestionably a step forward for Wavves, but ultimately it does nothing to escape being pigeon-holed as yet another band in the lo-fi craze. Take the Dum Dum Girls for example. What made their full-length debut so appealing was its genuine soul searching quality and how well it captured not just the feeling of Summer (which is clearly what bands like these are trying to do), but the memories that come with it. Here, Williams is more interested in talking about how things don't mean shit, how he doesn't give a shit, and how nobody else should give a fuck. What is there to take from that? This renders even the sweeter sentiments, like Post Acid's chorus of "I'm just having fun, with YOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUU" as empty. He seems to forget that after a public blowout, and regaining critical and fan support, it's customary to not come across as an asshole anymore.
There are some very fun moments here, and King of the Beach is far from a bad album. But it does so little to stand out other than fall back on the same persona that Williams has been touting for the last two years, and frankly it's gotten old. With the way his songwriting continues to mature, it's entirely possible that he could become the king of the beach before the genre dies out. It's just not working right now, though - he's not bringing enough to the table, and the beach is just too damn crowded.