I’m having severe difficulty writing about this album. My initial instinct was just to write “hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit”. But it seemed like future me would be disappointed with that, and I’m basically in this to serve the needs of future me. So I have to try.
Considered a few angles. The “emerging from a cloak of fuzz” angle. The “response to Primavera meltdown” angle. The “becoming the reincarnation of Jay Reatard by hiring his band” angle. These are all legitimate narratives. But they’re not the reason this is the best album of 2010. It’s really hard to explain why it is, in any even pseudo-journalistic terms. These are songs you want to shout. They are songs you want as your entrance music when you go to do anything at all. They make you want to do stuff just so you can do it while listening to them.
Invincibility has been a sunken theme in Wavves songs since the beginning, but it’s right above board here. The first song is King of the Beach itself, which features Nathan shouting “NEEEEVER GONNA STOP ME!” over hard-edged guitar pop that basically forms its own nerd mosh pit just by existing. In hip hop, if you want to claim the crown, you just keep calling yourself the best, and you’re entered into the competition. In indie rock, it’s a little more embarrassing to be positive about yourself. But this is the high water mark of all that lo-fi and surf pop and garage rock that California’s been pumping out for the past few years. And if there was gonna be an equivalent title to Greatest Rapper Alive, it’d probably be King Of The Beach.
That celebratory, fuck you sense is in everything on the album. On Idiot, when he’s saying “I bet you laugh right behind my back” the music lets you know the exact nuances of how he’s feeling about that. Take On The World is actually about taking on the world. Even more chilled out (i.e. stonery) things like Convertible Balloon (about riding around in a convertible balloon) and Linus Spacehead are infused with it. It’s always “me” in the lyrics, and the “me” is railing against doubters, haters, restraints, himself, everything. You can hear it as Nathan, or you can do what inevitably ends up happening and hear “me” as yourself and use your newfound power to go out and fuck shit up, at least theoretically.
Songs, in some way, are the sound of the inside of a person’s head, and Wavves songs sound like skateboarding fast, being high, being happy, being unhappy and just generally chasing excitement. It’s easy to do guitar pop, but the curve is steep when it comes to actually doing it well. Every smacked guitar chord on King of the Beach expresses something. Nothing drags out, and the stonery in-between times that were essentially just computer ghost noise on the first two LPs are now cloud-surfing psychedelic pieces, still hooked on weirder sounds than the pop hits, but now with choruses too. Like Bobby said in the Nylon interview, “the existence of Animal Collective, the internet and a fucked up planet has to feed into something.” It fed into a lot of things. What Wire insists on calling Hypnagogic pop and we HRO alums call chillwave, for example. Or the fact that every band has a table of toys now. But also it eats into music like this, ending up as songs like Baseball Cards and Mickey Mouse.
But really what I want to say still is “hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit after hit.” It’s melody to begin with, and then the option of force. When it’s not used, you get the weirder, Animal Collective/60s-influenced stuff. When it’s used, you get Post-Acid or Idiot, string-breaking chord riffs and shout along verses. But either way you get melody.