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Wavves
Wavves Charles Ubaghs , June 9th, 2009 06:49

A young man with the (indie) music world at his feet takes too many drugs and throws a strop on stage. As stories go, it's hardly a new one. The Brian Jonestown Massacre's Anton Newcombe has spent his entire career re-enacting this particular tale of rock'n'roll excess, with onstage band fight fights being just one of the many, many incidents noted over the years.

Wavves' Nathan Williams may not have assaulted his bandmate, but he has been the centre of a mini-media storm since his drug-fuelled, onstage meltdown at Spain's Primavera festival a few weeks ago. Refusing to play and mucking about in front of an audience (including — gasp — Pitchfork's overseer Ryan Schreiber) may sound like a banal act in the greater scheme of things, yet Williams' botched performance has quickly turned into the great indie scandal of the year.

Yet what was Williams' real transgression? What terrible sin caused legions of bloggers to rise up in a wave of indignation and declare the young man from San Diego persona non grata? He was rude. The 22-year-old bedroom punk dared to offend the notoriously polite indie music world of 2009; a world that purports to celebrate the unique, but only as long as it's a uniqueness agreed upon and shared by millions. Break that pact in any way and the result, it turns out, is an online letter-writing campaign of the sort usually favoured by aging pensioners and Daily Mail reading housewives (or for American readers: Fox News viewers).

Many are now calling time on Williams' meteoric rise, even going so far as to declare his career finished and his music nothing more than already spent fuel for the hype machine. The jackals may be circling, but the UK release of Wavves' epnoymous second LP may well serve as a bold two-fingered salute to Williams' critics.

Filled with fuzzy odes to that triumvirate of teenage male concerns, boredom, girls and weed, Wavvves is in the tradition of the classic lo-fi bedroom album — even though Williams eschews a four-track in favour of Garage Band. Images of Jeff Spicoli with a Macbook and guitar may not be far off the mark, but buried beneath the no-fi hiss of 'Beach Demon' and 'Gun in the Sun' lies the heart of an unabashed pop songwriter.

The shock of the new may be absent from Wavvves, but by dousing brash melodies, girl-group harmonies and shoegaze interludes in his bong-water drenched aesthetic, Williams crafts a heavily distorted version of sunshine pop that deftly forgoes the 'surf's up' mentality and lunkheaded pop-punk commonly associated with his Southern Californian home. Instead, his cries of boredom and cynical tales of suburban ennui find their inspiration in the vast, grey parking lots of America's suburbs and the records left behind by Beat Happening and early Pavement.

Of course, no matter what superlatives we throw at Williams' latest recorded work, the elephant in the room still looms large. Is Nathan Williams now faced with the prospects of the 'going nowhere' future he sings about on 'Beach Demon'? Perhaps, but it would certainly be to the loss of the many who once cheered him on from the digital sidelines.

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