When your garage-surf gets old why not go glam? That was clearly in mind when modern surf-rock legends Wavves were writing this latest record. While there’s something fresh and new to their sound the change at times seems more cosmetic than deep.
Growling with bass and xylophone, “Animal” is a shrieking opener to the album. Bubbling with parts synth and heavy distortion, the track is an effective transition to the more over-the-top pop the album pushes. Turning the gain up loud, “Cheap Heat” is choppy, non-stop race to the finish with machine-gun drums and a slowly disintegrating guitar line that barely escapes the track.
“Come To The Valley” feels almost foreign with its feigning old-timey sheen, but the cheeky delivery that they lean heavily into somehow makes it work. Ultimately however it’s a track that’s so different and overtly tongue-in-cheek that it won’t earn much live or repeat plays on record. In the simple up and down of the bass, “Dreams Of Grandeur” builds it dreams almost effortlessly, with surprisingly effective use of filters that elevates the straightforward writing.
Crashing in with reckless abandon, “Exercize” bangs along with a constantly ramping stop-and go fury that keeps hitting harder and harder. While some of the verses leave a little more originality to be desired the fun choruses more than make up for it. Tweaking a Hawaiian surf vibe into something distinctly disturbing, “Grinning” is a creepy take both melodically and lyrically on an old-school sound.
On demented harmonies “Hollowed Out” crafts some fun quirky pop with hints of a dark B-52s sound and some rickety percussion. Taking the most pop and most risk simultaneously it makes for one of the strongest tracks on record thanks to some genre-mashing as well. Doing the retro-remake right this time, “I Love You” packs more punch and dark undertones than their more sarcastic effort earlier in the record. Surprisingly though, when they do lean into the style they still nail some fun but forgettable moments.
“Million Enemies” takes the catchy but ambitious sound to a new level, with a seemingly endless line of addictive melodies in pocket. With earth-shaking drums and danceable beats, along with rumbling bass and a heavenly synth the sound is fleshed out and firing on every cylinder for a powerful touch of pop. Going down a more subdued route “Stupid In Love” plays the more clang-laden reverb rock until it combusts on a vicious chorus, shredding to destruction.
Electronic blips and bloops going, “Under” ticks along, showing the versatility of the band instrument-wise while finding a couple weaknesses writing-wise, as they push their sound without actually sounding that different. Closing out as shrieking as possible, “You’re Welcome” slaps the percussion and cuts its intense sounds down to moments for an outro that feels about as intense as it feels strangely withheld.
While a fun new sound for Wavves, it’s hard to feel like this isn’t a record we’ve heard before with a new face on it, rather than a true evolution of the band. While a few songs do push the envelope a lot, the rest just seem to be an update of the band’s typical fair with some sonic tweaks.
Words by Owen Maxwell