In Pitchfork’s neverending quest to embrace anything that is incoherent and noisy, they have heaped loving spoonfuls of praise upon Nathan Williams, better known as Wavves (which I pronounce “Wah-Vez” out of a dogged unwillingness to See What He Did There), for his sophomore effort Wavvves (the follow-up to his eponymous debut, Wah-vez). I approached Wavvves with an open-mind – no really, I did. Despite its un-fucking-believably pretentious title, the Pitchfork review led me to believe that I might actually like Wah-Vah-Vah-Ves and I kinda did the first time I heard it… when it was called Surfer Rosa and it was by the Pixies. (See What I Did There, Wavves?)
The album covers of both Wavves and Wavvves (Dear Mr. Williams, Re: What You Did There… I don’t see it) would seem to indicate that Nathan Williams is a skateboarder, a hobby which I don’t hold against anyone per se, but combined with the unflinching Southern California-ness of his song titles (for example: “Beach Demon,” “Sun Opens My Eyes,” “Weed Demon,” and “California Goths”), the overall effect is one of a guy in a basement, screaming over tons of crunchy electric guitars, “Look at how hard I’m trying to look like I’m not trying very hard!” Wahvahvavoom smacks of a tedious effortlessness, a criticism you might level at Pavement if you liked being wrong.
Many of the songs on Wah-vah-vah-vah-ves are just guitar noise and electronic noise – presumably Williams was too busy getting stoned and skating to bother tossing any vocals on those tracks. And while I’m a fan of guitar noise, and even really noisy vocals (I love Titus Andronicus, for instance), there’s not enough on Look – I Put 3 V’s in the Title (Why Don’t You See What I Did There?) to really make me look past the fact that I’d rather be listening to either the aforementioned Surfer Rosa or Daydream Nation or The Airing of Grievances or albums of that nature.
The word “goth” appears in four song titles on Wablahblahblahves and one gets the feeling that Williams finds goths, like, soooo lame. Or something. I can’t really tell what he’s singing about half the time. Perhaps his persistent mockery of goths is his way of saying he doesn’t want to belong to or endorse any such stylized group, even though he is clearly classifiable as a skater who listens to The Pixies instead of a skater who listens to Blink-182. That might well be the highest praise I have for the lad! But the larger consideration should be given to the music itself which is consistently either irritating or derivative of other bands I’d rather listen to. I have the same problem with Wavves that I had with Thom Yorke’s solo album – both are so far up their own asses with their particular sound (Yorke’s being a guy in a shed fucking a laptop and Wavves’s being a guy in a shed fucking a laptop and an electric guitar – and, lest someone should accuse me of hating electronic music, I will state for the record that I don’t; I simply compare all electronic music I hear to LCD Soundsystem and find most of it severely lacking indeed. James Murphy has set the bar pretty fucking high, and if you don’t believe that shit, you’d better run out and get yourself a copy of Sound of Silver and prepare to stand corrected. If anything on Wvvvvvvvvvves was even half of what “North American Scum” is or even a quarter of what “All My Friends” is, I’d tell the Pitchfork kids to scootch over so I could lovlingly sidle up to Nathan Williams and coo and cuddle him like they do) that the songs end up being semi-good at best and fucking unlistenable at worst. See Wavves’ annoyingly-misspelled “Killer Punx, Scary Demons” for examples of the latter category.
There are three songs on Wwwwwwwwaveeeeeeeeeeessssssssssss that I think are actually pretty good. In no particular order, they are “To the Dregs,” “No Hope Kids,” and “Weed Demon.” Three songs out of fourteen. Not a good ratio, but the three songs I like make me think that Williams does have potential. There’s some interesting noise on Wavvves, but not enough – when the longest song on your album is under four minutes and it still has me checking my watch, you’ve got a problem. The problem with Wavves is that I can’t help singing along bitterly when Williams sings “I’m so bored.” Except that he’s bored with… whatever he’s talking about and I’m bored with his album.