There has always been a conflict between punk rock and the mainstream. On the one hand, music is a hugely commercial industry, and punk music is a fairly popular genre. On the other hand, it seems as though the entire point of that genre is stay away from popularity. Because of this dichotomy, you get bands like Bad Brains and the Dead Kennedys, and you also get bands like Sum 41 and Green Day. Wavves is somewhere in the middle of these two groups.
Wavves is the creation of Nathan Williams, the main songwriter and singer behind the band. As you may have guessed, V is Williams’ fifth album with the group. For a while, Wavves was able to coast on the critical and commercial success of their self-titled debut and King of the Beach, but lately they’ve been in a bit of a slump. Their two latest efforts haven’t been as well received, and their Cloud Nothings collaboration No Life For Me didn’t necessarily generate as much publicity as Williams may have hoped for. V continues this streak.
To be clear, this album could definitely appeal to some people; but these people would mainly be pre-teens who haven’t heard a Misfits record yet. Pop-punk and hardcore clichés abound on V, leaving the whole thing sounding like a hastily thrown together record that may have been in interesting if it were released in the American Idiot era of “punk rock,” but certainly not today. Every eighth-note-chugging bass riff and power chord breakdown (and there are a lot of both) diminishes the records appeal. It’s really not even helpful for me to single out specific tracks, because they all sound the same for the most part.
You may say, Preston, punk rock isn’t about being particularly creative in your music. It’s about emotion! It’s about rebellion! And I would say to you, V has none of that. The lyrics, especially, sound like an angsty high school freshman’s diary. “Everything sucks/If you don’t get your way,” Williams whines on “Tarantula.” My personal favorite, from the chorus of “Pony:” “Leave me alone all by myself/But this much is true/I’ll always be lost without you.” I swear to God, that must be a line from “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”
I suppose all of this would be redeemable if Williams sounded authentic on this record, but he doesn’t. His singing comes across as half-hearted griping, and the lazy melodies on the choruses (I’ll refer you to the refrain of “My Head Hurts”) certainly don’t help either. Luckily, the harmonies are often well done, and add a nice booming effect to increase dynamics where they’re often needed. But this is hardly enough.
Moments of genuine feeling do come through on the LP. On my favorite track, “Cry Baby,” we finally get a taste of some real energy from Williams, as he lets loose on the last chorus and intro of the song. This sounds like a real punk song. On “Redlead,” despite the structure being very formulaic, the harmonies and wailing guitar tone manage to salvage a little bit of rage, which puts this tune head and shoulders above most of the rest.
I found myself nodding off many times during V. It’s simply too similar throughout to be a worthwhile listen. Maybe if Williams had dug a bit deeper for his lyrics, or had gotten a little more creative in his songwriting, this project would have come out much better. You can file this one along with “21st Century Breakdown” and “Neighborhoods” under “Pop-Punk Failures.”
Written by Preston Fulks