Is Nathan Williams, the man behind the last surviving lo-fi band of the late 2000s, really five albums deep? While it’s not surprising that Wavves has been around for the last seven years, it’s still fun to look back at the early songs released from Williams’ basement and reflect on the fantastic changes he’s experienced since then.
While everything else, seemingly, has changed swirlingly around the band—like the move to a major label, huge lineup changes, pre- and post-dependency issues, and the gentle but progressive move away from the no-fidelity noise of early releases—one thing remains consistent. The grounding behind Wavves is, and always will be, Williams’ self-deprecating, uncomfortable, and ill-at-ease lyrics hidden behind a smirk or a particularly infectious guitar riff. V is no different, with plenty of lines ripe for over-analysis amidst the upbeat and raucous stoner-fuzz beats.
If the band were to be divided into different eras, V would be the sophomore follow-up to 2013’s seminal Afraid Of Heights. Both records see Wavves playing tongue-in-cheek with the production values of a big-budget label, using the most and biggest combinations of amps, guitars, and cosmic wizardry to extract the perfect distorted guitar tones found throughout each track. Where Afraid Of Heights felt like a glorious first example of what Williams was really capable of, V sees the band comfortable to explore their relatively newly-found freedoms without pushing too many buttons or boundaries this time. While Afraid Of Heights surprised critics into admitting that the band may have been capable of more than they had given them credit for, V seems in contrast a very natural progression.
In a way, V sees Williams really raise the middle finger to self-pity with a prankster grin. Opener “Heavy Metal Detox” mixes a poppy hook with hilariously heavy lines like “Have I lived too long?/I can’t decide if I’m getting worse.” A lot of the fun of Wavves releases over the last decade have come from watching Williams poke fun at his own mental insecurities and vices, and V is no different. It’s some miracle that a major label and a little bit of fame haven’t either reduced Williams’ neuroses or blown them completely out of proportion, and that’s a lot of what has sustained Wavves through these last five releases. V isn’t as much of a breakthrough as Afraid Of Heights was, but it’s ripe with exactly the same amount of prankster charm and sludgy guitars that made its predecessor so damn good.
Review by Fraser Dobbs