Nathan Williams’ erratic behavior at last year’s Primavera Sound Festival sure looked like the crash landing of yet another internet darling, ending Wavves‘ ascension almost quickly as it began. Primavera was the type of event that reeked of another example of what happens when we put notoriety before talent. It was perfect ammunition for the cynics, dutifully pointing out how the internet scenemakers are just as awful at picking tomorrow’s talent as the dumbasses at major labels.
Wavves’ frontman, Nathan Williams—the Einstein who thought that combining ecstasy, Xanax, and Valium before performing in front of a bunch of paying customers would be a good thing—sounds like he’s put down the drugs long enough to deliver on all that promise and hype.
King Of The Beach finds Williams putting the portastudio in the closet and stepping into a real studio. Whether it was that act itself or an inherent need to prove himself in light of it, the album works as both an attempt at redemption and one that completely vilifies his prior acclaim.
The full spectrum production lets all the hooks, melody and charm shine through. Williams bounces from spastic surf pop to primitive Beach Boys harmonies to garage rock rave-ups. But producer Dennis Herring introduces elements of wiggy psychedelia and chillwave trances that would find a home on Merriweather Post Pavilion. Regardless of whatever twists and turns Williams finds himself navigating, King Of The Beach handles the road with the kind of confidence of an artist that’s completely in control of their senses and their creativity.
The concern is that this sudden burst of sonic maturity might have dulled Wavves’ sense of recklessness. Thankfully, Williams’ lyrics remain as childish as ever, including a completely unwarranted fear of the ocean, water, and yes—waves.
He waxes on and on about worthlessness, spinning themes of self-loathing into fun pop bursts. On “Idiot,” he offers a half-assed explanation for his poor behavior and a feeble attempt at an apology. “I’m not supposed to be a kid,” he claims, “But I’m an idiot / I’d say I’m sorry / But it wouldn’t be shit.” And underneath his psychoanalysis lies a peppy “Sha la lala la la” backdrop, pointing out that his suggestion of stupidity is merely a cover-up, hiding a very smart artist that has the potential of being around for quite a long time.