Full disclosure: It actually would’ve been somewhat awesome if this album turned out to be horrible. Song titles like “Way Too Much,” “All The Same,” “My Head Hurts,” and “Cry Baby” are perfect set-ups for putting 11 songs of anger and incessant complaining on blast.
However, while most of the songs on Wavves’ “V” do lean toward ill-tempered grumbling, they also comprise an album that happens to be the one-time San Diego band’s best to date.
Before Wavves left for L.A. and secured a major-label deal, bandleader Nathan Williams spent two albums burying all of his artistic therapy under lo-fi fuzziness while recording to cassette in his bedroom.
But even higher production values on 2010’s “King of the Beach,” and the subtle maturation of 2013 major label debut, “Afraid of Heights,” didn’t completely wash away that recluse residue from Williams’ surf-infused rock riffs.
Although “V” isn’t a step forward lyrically (everything still sucks!), it is a significant progression in Wavves’ innate ability to create undeniably catchy, radio-worthy hooks without serving them up in a gigantic bowl of cheese.
And given that the album’s 32 minutes fly by with scarcely a trace of that trademark sonic gauze to be found, it may just mean that Williams and Co. are ready to take all of this seriously.
Williams teamed with the Cloud Nothings’ Dylan Baldi on the nine-song collection, “No Life For Me,” earlier this year, and for the first time in his career, shared writing duties for “V” with permanent band members Stephen Pope and Alex Gates.
He also released the self-titled debut of Spirit Club, a psych-pop side project with his brother and SD local Andrew Caddick, on his own Ghost Ramp imprint in May.
Everything other than the music says otherwise.
The new album’s press sheet describes the period of time leading up to recording it as one of “just drinking, straight drinking,” where the quartet had no problem killing “100 beers and two bottles of Jameson” on the regular.
Williams also got into a public feud with Warner Bros. before the album’s release over the treatment of the aforementioned lead single, “Way Too Much.”
Despite Williams also stating that the energy while recording “V” was “a lot lighter and not as drunk” as previous trips into the studio, it certainly doesn’t sound like things have changed that much in the tumultuous life of the Point Loma-bred bandleader.
But if the end result is a tidy, enjoyable, well-produced collection like “V,” why should it matter?
“V” is out now.
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to firstname.lastname@example.org.