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Nobody’s Gonna Stop Williams on Wavves’ Newest EP “Life Sux”

Ross Finney | Thursday, October 27, 2011

 

We’re never gonna stop Nathan Williams. Never. He reminded us of this fact in the chorus of the of 2010’s “King of the Beach” title track, and he reminds us once again in the outro to “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl,” the most hyped track from Wavves’ newest EP “Life Sux.”

But all this begs the question, who’s trying to stop him, and from doing what? 

The answer, one suspects, is nobody and nothing in particular; Williams has become this hipster generation’s manifestation of all punky, snotty tendencies to rage against a machine that really doesn’t care one way or the other. Ideologically, it’s as shallow as pop punk and hipster posturing ever was, but musically it’s as fantastic as either ever were.

And who really needs ideals when you’ve got tunes? Williams and his girlfriend Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast are at the vanguard of what some call a surf-pop revival, though this reviewer likes to think of it as Beach-Wave music. Their songs are so upbeat and drenched in the endless-summer beached-out fuzz of SoCal, you end up longing for fun in the sun. 

That’s the vibe and ethos of Wavves’ music, and Williams certainly hasn’t been stopped in that regard on the newest EP. His eternally teenage perspective is in full force and the hooks for the most part are as good as Wavves has ever had. 

“I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl” is excellent surf-rock. A paean to grunge’s squarest survivor, the track is a hilarious juxtaposition of teen angst, love and apathy with the desire to meet, and later to be, the Foo-man himself. Twenty years on, grunge-nostalgia is about due, and Williams is just the person to usher it in with requisite irony. 

Grunge is the name of the game on “Poor Lenore,” the only track Williams has released that might imply he’d picked up a book in his life, though the Poe reference isn’t too much deeper than a source of rhyme.

He goes for big and heavy but can’t escape young and angsty. Luckily that dynamic works in his favor.

Williams leaves no question about his alt-rock roots with “Bug,” a noisy affair that does justice to Dinosaur Jr., to whom the title of the song is a nod. Mimicking J. Mascis’ penchant for fuzzed out power riffs, Williams lacks the depth of ironic observation that a song like “Freak Scene” had but speaks in a voice characteristically his own. Only he could hurl the phrase “You’re no fun,” like a true insult that matches the aesthetic intensity of the music. 

The EP’s standout track however is “Nodding Off,” a collaborative piece with his Best Coast girlfriend. 

Cosentino’s presence is strong, from the reverbed vocals to the lyrics that deal with relationships in an emotionally serious way that Williams tends to avoid and are priceless to hear him sing. The song plays like a more — though certainly not very — serious Wavves song, or even better, a Best Coast song that has the crunchy guitar onslaught some of us have always wished the group had.

Though they more or less lift the opening bass line from Black Tambourine’s “Throw Aggi Off the Bridge,” Williams and Cosentino are absolutely themselves and in top form on the track. They revel in “Nodding Off’s” punky pop-perfect chorus in such a harmonious collaboration that one can’t help but root for their hipster king and queen relationship. 

The other collaboration on the album, the tune “Destroy,” made with members of F****d Up, a Canadian hardcore punk group, somewhat misses the mark. It’s a valiant attempt for an all out breakneck punk song but Williams’ pop tendencies clash uneasily with the hardcore traditionalism of his collaborators. While not a bad song, it’s the only song on the EP that doesn’t quite work.

But one mediocre tune on an otherwise great EP won’t stop Williams. Nobody’s ever gonna stop him from partying or from being a perpetual teenager or from unashamedly rocking. He just needs to realize that nobody wants to.