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Wavves

Wavvves

Rating: 4.0

Label: Fat Possum

One of a myriad of terms from foreign tongues that are impossible to translate easily into the English language, “mono no aware” is a Japanese term for a distinctly Japanese state of mind. Clumsily translated into “the ah-ness of things,” the term is the expression for not only that culture’s awareness of everything’s impermenance but more importantly, a longing, bittersweet sadness evoked due to these changes that march on, unstoppable. The seasons change, the wind gets colder, our relatives age, peoples’ health fails them. We are saddened by this, yet at the same time, we derive comfort in seeing that things are working the way they should.

Nathan Williams is a bored, unmotivated 22-year old from San Diego who finds comfort in pop culture. He’s talked to interviewers about living in his parents’ pool house rent-free, spending his time smoking weed, watching game shows, drinking cheap liquor and recording songs on his own, under the name Wavves. Ostensibly (the admission of his parents owning a pool house) Williams has had an upbringing more privileged than most, which means he could probably find his way into a good school, make good connections, land a good job, make good money. One can only guess what his motivations or priorities are; regardless, Williams has chosen to eschew an ‘upward,’ straight lifestyle for the simple pleasures he enjoys and for the tunes he records to “pass the time.”

This particular pastime is paying off for the artist; Wavvves is his second record in a year and his first with Fat Possum, a label built initially on unheard, unknown blues artists, who are now expanding to include indie rock artists as particularly unique as Wavves. Williams’ songs are largely all cut from the same cloth; they’re frenetic three-minute ruminations on girls, summer and being bored. Making this all sound epic is his guitar, distorted like Greg Sage’s, atonal like Thurston Moore’s, and in the red like Lou Reed’s, in addition to multi-layered harmonies that sound bizarrely sweet behind the clamor, though they’re no less warped, with floating “la la la’s” that at times sound underwater.

After some electronic squawks, Wavvves storms out with “Beach Demon,” a tightly wound, jerky rocker not far off from Queens of the Stone Age’s quicker material. Williams’ refrain here is “going nowhere,” and on the following track, “To the Dregs,” he exclaims, “You see me/ I don’t care” before assuring us he’s “never gonna be.” Later, on “Gun in the Sun,” Williams reads a laundry list of listlessness without any of the outright aggression of 1970s punk or 1980s hardcore: “I’m just a guy with nothing to say/ …nothing to do/ …something to prove.” Williams sounds as though he’s just stating facts, hinting that he’s almost tickled by how bored he is. If the song titles are any indication (“Goth Girls,” “California Goths,” “Summer Goths,” “Beach Goth,” and “Surf Goth”), it seems like the people in Williams’ life have all blurred together and he can’t help but chuckle.

What makes Wavvves so damned interesting is the fact that the sound is pushed to such an emotional extreme that you can’t help but want to elbow your way into the recording, to feel the slight dread that Williams must feel. Although he’s “So Bored,” Williams turns perception upside down by throwing his songs’ tweaky slacker mumbling into wide vistas of paradoxical emotion. Those 1960s style harmonies sweeten these sometimes harsh songs and cast Williams as a gifted bedroom composer whose ultimate achievement here is that he realizes time is slipping away from him fast during those commercial breaks of Cops and during those moments stoned out on the beach – that there’s something inherently awful and beautiful about the quickness with which those moments slip into the ether and that any day above ground is one that deserves to be elevated with whacked-out multi-tracked harmony.

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