by Peter Lacerenza
The SoCal punk rock outfit, led by the airport-bombing-joke-tweeting Nathan Williams, is back with their latest album Afraid of Heights. After a year of recording with producer John Hill—who has worked with performers like M.I.A. and Santigold—the band has managed to diversify its sound, creating a signatory and seamless hybrid of pop, garage, grunge, while even nodding to the band’s seemingly forgotten lo-fi past.
Headlining the album is Afraid of Heights’ first single, “Sail To The Sun.” Accompanied by a music video documenting the trials and tribulations of a crack smoking, prostitute-soliciting evangelist, “Sail To The Sun,” is more or less a continuation of the powerhouse choruses and weed-hazed tomfoolery that so defined the band’s 2010 album King of the Beach.
Following “Sail To The Sun” is the album’s second single, “Demon To Lean On.” An undeniably catchy track, “Demon To Lean On” sets forward a tone not found in previous albums. While the band’s image has essentially revolved around its members being suburban L.A. rabble-rousers, there is a noticeable infusion of uncertainty and personal struggle that has yet to be broached by Wavves’ lyrical repertoire. The song, in which Williams grapples with his own lack of ambition, introduces a rather twisted element into Williams’ typically bored banter. This sense of misanthropy is further encapsulated by lines like “None of you will ever understand me,” in “Lunge Forward” and “I’ll always be on my own,” in the album’s eponymous track, the album certainly digs deeper than its sunnier predecessor King of the Beach.
What is most notable about the album is the band’s experimentation with tempo and pace. While several tracks like “I Can’t Dream,” and “Everything Is My Fault,” surge and meander with noisy riffs and dreamy acoustic interludes. These tracks truly embody Afraid of Heights’ more complex and varied sound that influenced by the likes of Nirvana and Weezer. While there is certainly a broader range of experimentation, tracks like “Paranoid” and “Beat Me Up” perpetuate the tried and truth lyrical aesthetics that have helped solidify Wavves as a poster child of the resurgence of surf rock. Though I was initially hesitant about the album after a first listen, Afraid of Heights is undeniably infectious. While it is consistent with the band’s pre-existing musical catalogue, the album also introduces an air of change that will most definitely attract new listeners while appealing to the fan base that has come to love Wavves for its trademark sound.
4 1/2 Q-Tips