V is a small album, clocking in at only half an hour. It may be a lightweight, but it is no doubt ferocious and sharp, carrying the energy of a writhing sea snake. Packed into those eleven songs is the texture of the beach: at moments glimmering and soft, but simultaneously abrasive and rough. It should be clarified now that Wavves lives within the tiny and unusual shell of the hermit crab that is surf punk. It is an odd mix in theory. The bright summer sounds of SoCal beach bumming, but tossed into a room with the hollering drive of punk. However, the two share a similar energy: youth incarnate, a celebration of what it means to be alive and restless on the beach and on the streets.
Wavves is a band in three parts: sunny melodies, skuzzy distortion, and anxiety-riddled verse. In this record especially, singer/lyricist Nathan Williams really brings the verbal pain. The record is never dull or dark, always propelling itself along with surf rock brightness, but the words mumbled and masked are deprecating enough to cause concern.
A common theme throughout the record is the headache. The pain of thinking and reminiscing, essentially. The sting of a heart left to dry in the salt, the ache of an unspectacular past and a dead-end future. In the song “Way Too Much,” hazy guitars crest just as the chorus is reached, the tumbling distortion masking depressive little phrases like “I’ve given up and now I’m on the ground” and “I’m slowly sinking into nothing.”
“My Head Hurts” is lovesickness incarnate, the whole song being a desperate plea for affection. Of course, you probably wouldn’t recognize that right away. That’s not to say that the album is all scowls and empty pill bottles. It’s fun music, thrashing, twisting, and tossing. For this record, Wavves has hopped onto a bigger label, allowing them to steer away from the fuzzy lo-fi sound that they had accumulated over the years. They are sharper now, crystal clear for our entertainment.
The moments in which they do return to the static haze are well-poised and oxymoronically precise, the sonic fuzz smuggling sharp bits of aforementioned angst. The opener “Heavy Metal Detox” is an excellent specimen of a punk song. Cymbals and guitar riffs alight, there’s some sort of roller coaster loop of distortion swinging about in the background; the brassy jingle-jangle of tambourine is strangely present. Williams is bemoaning his state, alternating between growls and screams. In “Way Too Much” Wavves busts out some of their old lo-fi habits and return with a few moments of speckled, vicious frenzy while lamentations and regrets are hollered into the fog bank of noise.
A lot of the songs follow the beat of the same drum and chug along in a neat little line, variance of sound not being the most critical component of the band. It doesn’t matter though. They are good at what they do. The songs liven up your blood a bit, like a week of sunny days.