Wavves, ‘Afraid of Heights’ – Album Review
With their fourth studio release, Wavves have created their most coherent listen to date, one that further expresses their slacker aesthetic. They aren’t just picking up where they left off with ‘King of the Beach.’ There’s less fuzz and more grunge, as well as new elements of Animal Collective-style symphonics. However, this is an album that strongly plays upon Williams’ love of Weezer and Nirvana.
‘Sail to the Sun’ opens the album and propels listeners forward with its fast-paced, snott-nosed attitude. ‘Demon to Lean On’ then starts in on the religious themes, as Williams apathetically sings, “Holding a gun to my head, so send me an angel / Or bury me deeply instead, with demons to lean on.” ‘Hi Getting Hi’ give us some scuzzier-sounding Wavves, though this time around, it feels more like controlled noise. The group is more focused, but it never shines too brightly.
Frontman Nathan Williams is no stranger to public meltdowns and issues of anxiety and depression, but like his heroes, he’s able to funnel negative feelings into great catchy choruses. As he sings on ‘Afraid of Heights,’ “I’ll always be on my own / F—ed and alone.” It plays like an anthem for a modern-day slacker generation. The melodies he’s crafted hit harder than any he’s given us before, and not since Weezer’s 1994 self-titled debut, the so-called “Ble Album,” has self-loathing sounded this good. Williams throws a wink towards Weezer’s ‘Say It Ain’t So’ in the standout track’s hook, as he sings of waking up and finding Jesus before launching into some sweetly sung “woooos.”
‘Lunge Forward’ has a breezy pop sensibility that echoes Green Day; ‘Dog’ finds Williams humming a slower, subservient love song; and ‘Cop’ features melodies that Animal Collective would be comfortable singing. However, songs on the second half of the album either slow it down too much or rehash riffs heard on ‘King of the Beach.’ The melody on ‘Idiot’ is certainly one that comes naturally to him, and the inessential ‘Everything is My Fault’ and ‘Beat Me Up’ only drag the album down.
While there may be a few tracks that could have been left off of ‘Afraid of Heights,’ Wavves seem to have solidified themselves, four albums in, as more than a beach-loving, weed-smoking gimmick. Williams and co. are prepared to grow into their own aesthetic, even if, for the time being, it means wearing their influences right on their sleeves.