Belying his slacker persona, Nathan Williams has been remarkably busy since the release of the last Wavves album two years ago. Afraid of Heights was one of our favorite records of 2013, and reached the third spot in our inaugural Best Albums list; since then, Williams has formed an electronic side project with his brother (Sweet Valley) and released a collaborative album with Cloud Nothing’s Dylan Baldi (No Life For Me), and after the release of several extra Wavves tracks for various projects, was able to find some time to record a proper follow-up. It seems that by dividing up his attention into pursuing all these different projects has allowed Williams to focus on a singular approach for Wavves, as V is the most streamlined album the band has released in years.
V is a giddy rush, blasting through eleven tracks in half an hour, but by relying on a particular formula leads to some diminishing returns as the album progresses. Each song is amped up to eleven and played at a breakneck speed, and while individually each song is great and could be selected for a single, it can result in a numbing effect when listened to as a whole. The album is missing some of those excellent mid-tempo numbers like “Demon to Lean On” or “Afraid of Heights” from their previous album, or those crazy studio experiments like “Baseball Cards” and “Convertible Balloon” from King of the Beach, both of which helped make for more cohesive records.
However, Williams shows once again that he can write a great hook, as V is absolutely stuffed with earworms that will immediately grab your attention. As fans should expect at this point, all those sunny melodies and cheerful musical background serve as an excellent foil to lyrics that revel in self-loathing, though even in the wake of an apparent breakup the mood is a tad merrier than on Afraid. The group also displays a remarkable capability to create the most artificial sounds possible with traditional rock instruments, and careful listening reveals a wealth of material lurking in the background of each track.
For a band that has a long history with the letter “v”, it is a fitting gesture to name the group’s fifth album with the Roman Numeral, and the record recaptures the energy of the band’s early years, but with a much better recording budget. V may not reach the heights of its predecessors, but it can serve as a welcome shot of adrenaline or as a palette cleanser after some other more dour and serious records.