Wavves’ You’re Welcome is a 35 minute and 40 second rage-fuelled howl of dismay at the modern world. It is a middle fingered salute to the establishments of America: politicians, record labels, and society as a whole. Vocalist and guitarist Nathan Williams has seemingly abandoned his lyrical emphasis on self-involvement and introspection, in favour of a more outward looking, observational perspective.
Similarly, the album can be seen as a product of the band’s freedom from the Warner bros label, one of the biggest record labels in the world and the one which financed and released Wavves last two albums: 2013’s Afraid Of Heights and 2015’s V. Nathan has made his hatred for the big-bucks mentality of major labels clear on a number of occasions, and it seems as if You’re Welcome embodies the creative freedom that a DIY approach has allowed the band.
The opening track, “Daisies” echoes the surf-grunge atmosphere of Wavves 2010 album King of The Beach. The track’s aggressive pace, fat drum sound and clean guitar chops giving way to turbulent fuzz, all suggest that this song is the perfect opener for an album which recalls the band’s past achievements whilst demonstrating a seemingly unstoppable musical momentum towards new pastures.
Next up, the album’s title track “You’re Welcome” trundles into life. It opens to a shrieking, warped riff which is throttled as the song’s focus shifts to a chant-like vocal line set to an expansive, yet understated instrumental backing. After, the ferocity of “Daisies”, You’re Welcome feels saturated by lethargy. The track has a swagger about it, but feels misplaced and seems to drive towards something in the distance it can’t quite make out yet.
However as the fuzz loaded riff which introduces “No Shade” melts into your left ear, it becomes clear that the previous track acts as a welcome ballast against the sheer aggression of this wonky punk song as it oozes cool from every pore. It is a song which firmly establishes the album as a rejection of the pop-punk or garage genres which Wavves have been labelled as since the band’s earliest releases. “No Shade” is a hard-core punk tune through and through.
Indeed, as the album progresses and we are introduced to “Million Enemies“, it becomes clear that Wavves have managed to weave together a vast tapestry of influences from a diverse range of frequently contrasting genres. This track blends punk infused aggression with a chorus which gushes glam-rock style flamboyance. In this song, Wavves reveal a desire to generate a new and exciting sound, a sound which transcends the limitations of genre.
From here on out, this weaving in and out of genre becomes the album’s obsession. In “Hollowed Out“, Williams’ vocals shift in tonality from a delicate, somewhat eerie murmur to a grungy roar in a matter of nanoseconds. Indeed, the entire track seems to be interlaced with a tantalisingly subtle psychedelia which time and time again buckles under the weight of a penetrating sub bass, pummelling the mind into a state of complete and utter submission.
“Come To The Valley” sits in direct opposition to the plethora of angsty, punk-fuelled mind-melters that have characterised the album thus far. The song’s welcoming refrain combined with Nathan’s crude vocal delivery allows the track to play out like some parody TV theme tune. I’m aware that those living on the west coast of America have probably had very little interaction with the British children’s TV show Chucklevision.
However, it cannot be denied that, if you listen really closely, the melodic similarities between “Come To The Valley” and the time-worn classic’s theme song, are remarkably uncanny. No, I agree. I find it hard to believe that Wavves took any inspiration from 80’s Children’s television, but the point still stands. Wavves juxtaposition of melody with delivery and production can be argued to push this song into the realm of social criticism.
This theme of social commentary extends into the next track, “Animal“. Williams sings: “I feel empty inside and taken advantage of”. It isn’t hard to work out that in this song, Wavves have used the record, specifically this section of it, as a platform to confront the hollow, gloom-inducing nature of the establishment.
Marking a shift back towards more personal subject matter, “Stupid In Love” revels in the general chaos that love provokes. Combining the jovial tone of Williams’s vocal lines with a wall of fuzz and chamber reverb, Wavves succeed in reflecting those feelings of frustration and mental turbulence which love feeds upon.
Reminiscent of the song “Super Soaker” from King of the Beach, “Exercise” doesn’t let us wallow in self-involved subject matter for too long. With the words: “I can’t believe the shit they feed to us”, floating above a motorised surf-punk foundation, Wavves offer us an optimistic picture of a post-truth world in which the only solution to the lies and deceptions is to have a damn good time. This song is certainly the peak of the album’s energy.
Signalling the conclusive section of the album, “Under” seems to inhabit an entirely separate realm to that of the guitar driven tracks which have shaped the album until this point. The track is a soaring, synth based exploration into the unknown, sitting somewhere between an 8-bit video game soundtrack from the 90’s and a stadium rock tune.
As the pulsations of analogue synthesisers die away, a song of uncharacteristic humility bursts into life. “Dreams Of Grandeur” tackles the subject of age and the passing of youthful arrogance that comes with it. There is a certain 80’s indie vibe running throughout this track, especially in the cure-esque opening riff. However, by this point in the album the song offers little that we haven’t heard before and often risks falling into filler territory.
Out of all the tracks to finish off a Wavves record, I bet nobody saw “I Love You” coming. The song begins with a sample of a 50’s bebop song and from there, quickly turns into one itself. It’s pretty much unheard of for William’s to deliver a heart-felt love ballad, but here we have it. It appears Wavves have finally decided to embrace love as a subject, and what emerges is a syrupy sweet, grunge-bebop track which induces both calm and unease simultaneously.
I think it’s fair to say that You’re Welcome is one of Wavves’ strongest albums since King of The Beach, proving just how important it is to make music without the constraints of meddling record-labels. In this way, it is truly an album of our time.
It is one which deems creative expression vastly more important than marketing. The sheer variety of song-styles on the album, allows it to appeal, not only to dedicated Wavves fans, but to those who may have seen the band as something of a one trick pony in the past. Wavves You’re Welcome is certainly the alternative album of the summer, purchase it on Bandcamp here.
Words by Sam Kemp
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