The California surf rockers Wavves are back with a feisty fifth effort ingeniously entitled V. The band’s latest offering veers away from the pop-punk crossover that Warner Bros may have wanted from them and could have been the cause of their conflict. The whole public debacle that unfolded earlier this year saw Nathan Williams uploading ‘Way Too Much’ to Soundcloud before the corporate giants swiftly removed it. Wavves instead chose, as we expected them to do, to make a record they wanted to which is unlikely to create the commercial success that their label craves. V is to some extent a simplistic album which borders on being almost cathartic filled with repetitive hooks and strong guitar riffs.
The album starts very strongly with the trio of ‘Heavy Metal Detox’, ‘Way Too Much’ and ‘Pony’. A brash opening statement is made through the powerful guitar and drums of the opener which brandishes a pleasant punk sound and leaves the listener wanted more. Wavves promptly deliver on this wish with a fast, catchy number in ‘Way Too Much’ which is easy to shout along to as it blasts out of your speakers. This is then followed by possibly the strongest song of the album; ‘Pony’ being easily the most intricate and well crafted track.
“The Warner Bros conflict should have stoked the fire of Wavves on V, not calmed them down”
Of course V cannot exist purely at this high level and despite the tempo keeping at a constant high, the standard sadly slightly drops. What we are given is several classic Wavves songs that will keep you engaged but begin to become slightly dull and mundane after the first few spins. The slightly more nuanced and intricate sound that was found on their last offering, Afraid of Heights, appears to have been discarded in favour of a classic lo-fi surf sound. No matter how enjoyable ‘Tarantula’ may feel, it simple lacks the growth that you would expect from a band with the potential of Wavves by their fifth album. This is also true for the simplistic hook of ‘My Head Hurts’ as, although it may succeed in crawling into your head and making you singalong in the twang of Williams, beneath this it is not a particularly good song.
V is a good effort at a surf rock album which provides an enjoyable listen and is well worth giving a try. However for a band with the talent of Wavves, as shown by singles like ‘Cop’ on their last album, a mediocre effort is quite disappointing. There was a feeling with this album that it could be very engaging and even quite memorable but instead it is just another passable rock album which these days are as common as fish in the sea. Of course the fight with Warner Bros made the making of this album more complex and problematic but if anything that should have stoked the fires of Wavves rather than calming them as it seems to have done with this somewhat generic LP.
Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham’s IMPACT Magazine.