Wavves @ Bottom Of The Hill, San Francisco- April 13th, 2009

Wavves

with Vampire Hands & That Ghost

Bottom Of The Hill, San Francisco, CA

April 13th, 2009

Oh, the kids were out late on a school night! Another all-ages show at the Bottom Of The Hill, and I gotta say for whatever reason people hate teenagers, they sure bring the energy. WavvesNathan Williams (and tour drummer Ryan Ulsh) matched the crowd’s ferocious, raw, “young-dumb-and-full-of-cum” vibe with forty minutes of straight-ahead, balls-to-the-wall intensity; tearing through songs with distorted riffs for days and pounded kit-skins as the pit surged and buckled against itself (as well as the stage).

Wavves‘ sound on the records is a fuzzy, feedback driven murk with vocals pushed way down in the mix. Not so as a live act; Williams‘ vocals were intelligible and at the front of the mix, the layers of fuzz were stripped away (I’m not saying the guitar was “clean”, just less rough around the edges) and the drumming was nothing short of explosive.

Openers That Ghost (from nearby Santa Rosa) and Vampire Hands (Minneapolis, represent!) were also excellent; a fine pairing to match Wavves‘ sound. Two more bands I’m going to go ahead and give an endorsement for; I’m looking forward to hearing more from these two bands.

Pictures!

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Wavves – Wavvves

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Wavves – Wavvves (Fat Possum Records; released March 17th, 2009)

I think my v-key must’ve gotten stuck typing that. Waves? No, the band is Wavves (two v’s) and the album is called Wavvves (three v’s); started as a bed-room project of a 22 year old San Diego noise-pop prodigy named Nathan Williams. It’s sunny and fuzzy- like a jug of tequila sunrises and a heady bong sesh buzz after a day in the waves. Aptly titled, aptly sounding, apt to the core.

The album visits all types of un-seemly ne’er-do-wells that lurk in and around the beaches of Williams‘ southern California- apparently he’s haunted by demons and goths, as well as the themes of “going nowhere”, aided by lots of “weed” and “no hope kids”, let’s not forget “girls”, “guns” and “sun”.  Recipe for disaster?

Take Gun In The Sun, there are so many layers of fuzz in the mix, the vocals, guitar and bass are all like one instrument- it should spell disaster and sound like an aural mess, yet it’s so fun to listen to- like Frankie and Annette on really bad acid freaking out because of the pattern on their beach blanket. And there’s So Bored, the “single” to the album (which basically means, “most accessible” song on the record) probably because there’s a discernible melody and the lyrics are higher in the mix, but the patented sheets of fuzz are firmly laid down over the drums.

Weed Demon has gorgeous vocal harmonies, it sounds like Dennis Wilson singing over a Kurt Cobain throw-away rhythm track for In Utero; then barrels headlong into the next track California Goths. The whole wrangling, fuzzed-out garage/surf rock thing is working very nicely here- this album is definitely worthy of the piles of praise being heaped upon it.

There are two ways to take this record: it’s at time messy and murky; others it’s clean and only slightly distorted. It’s mature, no wait; it’s ridiculously infantile. It shows promise but it lacks refinement. It’s ripping off the past and at the same time it’s ushering in a new wave of noise pop. I’m playing devil’s advocate with a lot of these suppositions- it’s really up to you to decide what you want the album to be. I wanted it to be the album that blows the cover off of the whole “idyllic, So Cal, fun-in-the-sun” picture that people have, and the record totally does that for me. Exposing creepy secret subcultures, clouded in esoterica- that’s why this album is immensely entertaining; it’s also infinitely interesting because there’s so much music hidden in all those layers of fuzz- the more you listen, the more you discover.

It’s kind of like The Lost Boys. There are fanged goth children under your boardwalks, thirsting for blood, San Diego. Watch your children, lock your doors, and continue to vote Republican. You can’t be saved from the Wavves

Tracklisting:

  1. Rainbow Everywhere
  2. Beach Demon
  3. To The Dregs
  4. Sun Opens My Eyes
  5. Gun In The Sun
  6. So Bored
  7. Goth Girls
  8. No Hope Kids
  9. Weed Demon
  10. California Goths
  11. Summer Goth
  12. Beach Goth
  13. Killr Punx, Scary Demons
  14. Surf Goth

Wavves

WAVVES vs NODZZZ…

Wavves

Wavves (Woodsist Records; released September 30th, 2008)

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Nodzzz

Nodzzz (What’s Your Rupture? Records; released November 18th, 2008)

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Disclaimer: The numbers within the parentheses are indeed footnotes; I went kinda crazy with them.

The author is asking you if you can remember back to the beginning of this century when every garage-rock revival band that broke through was appointed that overwrought tag “the next big thing”? So whatever happened to The Mooney Suzuki?(1) Oh, they’re out there somewhere, as are The Detroit Cobras and The Hives (both put out albums in ’07, which is like a million fucking years ago in internet time) and Division Of Laura Lee (I got one of their albums on a whim years ago; I wish they were dead).(2) But Hot Snakes and The Libertines; who were actually listenable have sadly come and gone, and the vastly over-rated Kings Of Leon(3) still get to make records. Of course The White Stripes and The Strokes are still alive and richer than ever, but my tastes have bent away from them as they’ve outgrown their grittier sounding stuff and moved towards a more polished aesthetic. Plus, where do you draw the line between garage rock and garage punk? Where do Black Lips and Jay Reatard fall in here? Vivian Girls?

And oh yeah, I fucking hate Times New Viking(4).

Anyway, I digress- I try to steer clear of genre-specific shit anyway, it’s better when it has a slash in it somewhere, like lo-fi/noise pop/garage punk.(5)

Enter Wavves; San Diego native Nathan Williams‘ bedroom recorded freak-fuzz project that references both goth and darkwave; re-writing the above triple-monikered genre’s accepted influences and altering them as he sees fit. He’s a one man band who draws from such far-ranging acts as The Beach Boys and Portland’s Wipers, so think of him as a sort of sand-covered gutter punk, but only in sound. It’s an absolute sonic mess that works for me, like an aurally-inspired toothache that I don’t mind having; I’ll get it taken care of whenever my health insurance kicks in…(6)

Stand-out tracks include Wavves, Side Yr On, Beach Goth and Teenage Super Party. Follow-up LP comes out February 3rd on Fat Possum Records and is ingeniously titled Wavvves (three V’s this time…).

Wavves – Wavves

Heading up to Nor-Cal to the city of San Mateo(7) (situated between San Francisco and Palo Alto) we have (another) lo-fi/noise/garage act calling themselves Nodzzz. Not to be outdone in the consonant war, they also have consecutive consonants. Nodzzz, interestingly enough, would not be able to play their own name in a game of Scrabble. But these three endearingly nerdy dudes make really catchy, fun, four-tracked Tascam MKII garage-pop, ten songs in less than sixteen minutes, total fucking radness. Imagine Weezer having only like 30 bucks and one guitar to record their debut album- it’s that sticky, it’ll stick to your ears like used condoms stick to the insides of a drunken sorority girl’s jeans.(8)

Is She There?, In The City (Contact High), Losing My Accent and I Can’t Wait are the key tracks here.

Nodzzz – In The City (Contact High)

Footnotes:
(1) – How can you name your band after the first two singers of Can and still totally suck? I was in either Sam Goody or F.Y.E. about 8 years ago and they had those “listening booth” thingys where you can put headphones on and listen to it- anyway, The Mooney Suzuki fucking suck, mostly because of their name, it’s like fucking blashphemy to a music geek. I was expecting some super-funky krautrock-type shit and it was this shitty guitar jerk-off of a mess. I was on a ton of drugs back then, too- I’m really surprised I didn’t like it.
(2) – These guys were on Epitath and my room-mate at the time was into all their bands and always bought their sampler records and all that shit, we even had a Division Of Laura Lee sticker on our coffee table. If I ever meet a chick name Laura Lee, I’m going to spit in her face.
(3) – Some dude a little while ago tried to tell me that Kings Of Leon was the best band I’ve never heard of. I had to correct his obvious error (I’ve heard everything) with “they are the worst band I wish I’ve never heard of the most”.
(4) – You can try to be lo-fi on purpose to hide the fact that you can’t play or sing.
(5) – Worst genre combination ever: UK garage/grime/dub-step. And anyone who knows me knows how much I love dub reggae; I used to drunkenly request it to folkish singer-songwriter types at open mic sets. However; dub-step is a freaking abomination. I wish that fad would hurry up and pass- thanks a lot, Pitchfork.
(6) – I have health insurance, I’m just afraid of dentists.
(7) – I hear they have a good skatepark there!
(8) – I don’t even know what this means.