Nathan Williams, the brain and heart behind WAVVES, is not necessarily easy to like. He’s dumped drummers mid concert, fucked with audiences while on drugs and physically fought with other bands. But he makes punk rock, so calm down. On his second proper full length King of the Beach, the follow up to last year’s lo-fi monster Wavvves, Williams makes it absolutely clear he can do whatever he wants, because at the end of the day all we really want from our artists is good art, and King of the Beach is amazing.
Opting for a move to hi-fi production, Williams acknowledged that his goals with this project were not simply to recreate a product that never changes. So here on only his second LP, super early in his career, WAVVES completely changes direction and makes a largely hi-fi punk album. And the album is punk at it’s heart, because it is a pop genius from San Diego breaking out of his media-created lo-fi shackles and producing an ultra dynamic full length that is as much an expression that he’s not just tape hiss as it is an all out gem. Williams is young, but he’s brilliant and so his outburst ends up topping his first effort and contributing to the forward movement of pop music in a big way.
Though this is a move to hi-fi production for Williams, a new direction from the super low fidelity bedroom surf pop on the first LP, it’s not entirely shiny. There are moments of fuzz and one full track straight from “the day.” The opener is, however, very clean, and it’s the clearest anyone’s heard WAVVES yet. With this, after the first minute of the record you fully get that he’s not a one-trick pony, and you get it in the form of an awesome beach party punk jam. The album’s namesake is the band’s poppiest track to date, and it’s got a great, simple message: Williams likes to feel the sun and rule over the beach. Linus Spacehead is another awesome track showcasing the studio WAVVES recorded in. It’s crisp. Much cleaner than what we’ve come to expect, and it’s got a real killer chorus.
When Will You Come is a sunset stroll down a 1950s beach. It’s kinda beautiful, dare I say, and thus it’s the antithesis of Wavvves and all that tape hiss. It’s also the perfect transition into one of the best songs of the year. On Baseball Cards we find Williams covered by a shallow layer of distortion, similar to on his earlier work, but not very abrasive. It’s a clean layer of haze and it covers muffled claps, synth drones, harmonies and one of the catchiest melodies you’re gonna hear all year. It’s the stuff that gets stuck inside your head. It’s as sunny as the song it follows but it’s much dreamier, and sorta surreal. At 1:53, when the song stops entirely for a split second before erupting into an explosion of warbling synthesizers, you see why geniuses like this need real studio time.
If King of the Beach is WAVVES’ poppiest song, Post Acid is a close second. It’s another barnburner, hi-fi where it needs to be, a touch of the old days in other spots. And its up-tempo, super energetic chorus is a keeper. The exact opposite track comes a bit later in Mickey Mouse, which is the only clear holdover from Williams’ lo-fi bedroom work. But it’s the boss dance track and it’s a real brain burrower, so it fits well on the LP. It’s just an awesome song.
Convertible Balloon is the most fun of the album’s tracks. It’s a hand clapper that’s as cool as a polar bear’s toenails. Williams goes back and forth with some high-pitched foggy background vocals, and a phenomenal guitar line keeps pace with an equally impressive drum line. But, in lock step with the album, Williams changes things mid stream and sprinkles a bunch of synth dust over the whole thing. Baby Say Goodbye is the perfect album closer for King of the Beach. Summery and sunny, poppy and happy, with a gorgeous bridge of 1950s “ooh oohs” and “bop bop bops.” It’s a clear statement of WAVVES being anything but a one-trick pony, and it’s probably the last time Williams will feel the need to prove himself to anybody but himself, which is who he aims to please anyway; to make songs he’d listen to. Well I know he’ll love listening to this album. Everyone is going to love listening to this album.