Earlier this year, Nathan Williams went to Oxford, Mississippi, the site of Ole Miss and numerous Faulkner tragedies, to record King of the Beach, his third LP in two years as Wavves. Oxford is distinctly different from his hometown San Diego, where Williams recorded every note of the first two albums in his parents’ pool house‚ alone, stoned and bored out of his mind. What came out of those distorted and scuzzy solo sessions was a ton of attention and a seemingly endless world tour, which resulted in a fair share of infamy. Oxford was a chance for Williams to slow down and get his bearings. He was there to make a new record with Billy Hayes and Stephen Pope, who had recently been kicked out of the band of nihilistic garage rocker Jay Reatard. Williams spent one week in Mississippi before Reatard died of a drug overdose.
Reatard and Williams had been portrayed similarly in the press, stoner punk rebels whose personal lives were covered as much as their music. The two weren’t especially close, but there was a sort of kinship, and Reatard’s death put an uncomfortable cap on the blur of mistakes that Williams was attempting to escape. Far from any ocean and any of his friends, he recorded King of the Beach over the next two months with his new band and seasoned producer Dennis Herring at Sweet Tea Studios. Stuffed with self-loathing bummer jams, Beach is unmistakably a Wavves album, but with radio rock riffs and startlingly clear vocals, it’s also a clean break from anything he’s done before.
The first records, Wavves and Wavvves, were surprise hits, repurposing Williams’ teenage wasteland into something of a utopia. “So Bored,” his anthemic pinnacle, offered the idea that apathy wasn’t a lazy state of mind so much as it was an active way of life, with skateboards, Christian Death and ripped jeans being the emblems of success. In lesser hands, Williams’ slacker focus could have seemed trivial, but what propelled and continues to carry Wavves was a natural gift for catchy riffs and quick songs‚ the fun, punch-drunk descendants of early West Coast punk. His way of singing about relieving boredom as a way of relieving boredom is casually expert, defining the numbness of post-teenage life where infinite opportunity and no opportunity mean the same thing. After two years of giving likeminded listeners a good show, King of the Beach marks Williams return to music, though not necessarily a departure from smoking weed out of a soda can.