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Review: Wavves, 'V'

Cover art for <em>V</em>.
Courtesy of the artist.
Cover art for V.

Note: NPR's audio for First Listens comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

In the last few years, we've seen Wavves' Nathan Williams wake up, stumble out of bed, emerge as one of the few successes of the late-'00s lo-fi resurgence, and graduate to the big leagues. Still, five albums in, Williams seems as plagued with uncertainty and peril as ever before. He's enjoyed a rare winning streak from DIY cassette releases through the indie-rock gauntlet, blogs and all, before catching serious attention and landing on a major label.

Through it all, he's remained remarkably open about his state of being, grafting his emotions onto a restless runaround of high-energy pop-punk and stoner fuzz. His songs roughly represent the equivalent of dumping a month's worth of antidepressants and a roll of Mentos into a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke and letting it rip. V is loaded with cheerful songs about woes and impediments, afflictions and self-doubt, with multiple references to headaches (physical and otherwise). Along the way, our under-30 protagonist asks himself, "Have I lived too long?" and frets that "I'm getting worse" in "Heavy Metal Detox." (On a brighter note, in "Pony," he sings hopefully about how, "It gets better / It better.") Williams' compatriot in all this, bassist Stephen Pope, is a first-person witness to these fears, having played for a few years with the late Jay Reatard before joining Wavves.

Williams is careful to leave his mark without smudging the classics: "Flamezesz" lifts a swirly keyboard lead from Trompe Le Monde-era Pixies and plunges it into his wild-eyed darkness ("It's suicide, uh huh, the way you walk around"), while "Cry Baby" cribs an opening riff as a speeded-up, smoothed-out nod to Pavement's "Box Elder." But Williams' rambunctious, brutally honest first-person narratives are all his own, the product of his talent and an innate understanding of what it's like to wander into a world of temptation, knowing that it's not much safer on the couch.

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Doug Mosurock
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