Entertainment Entertainment Music

Album review: Wavves, 'Afraid of Heights'

**1/2 (out of four)

Projecting apathy and brattiness while trying to make art that deserves attention is a delicate balance. Nathan Williams, the face (and originally the only member) of Wavves, has been feeling his way through this tension for the last few years with albums that have grown progressively more coherent--even as they continue to project a similarly disengaged attitude, best encapsulated in the title of 2011's "Life Sux" EP.

"Afraid of Heights," the fourth Wavves album and the band's major label debut, is by far the best thing the band has ever done, simply because it sounds like someone was invested in some part of the recording process. As opposed to the nearly unlistenable lo-fi recordings of the early Wavves albums and the all-encompassing aura of boredom on "King of the Beach," "Afraid of Heights" is exactingly produced, marked by blistering but tightly contained guitars and clear, sneering vocals that accentuate the hooks instead of burying them.

Standouts "Demon to Lean On," "Paranoid" and "Gimme A Knife" offer a blend of anxious energy, punk straightforwardness and disarming pop song-craft that closely echoes bands like Nirvana, Blink-182 and Weezer. In an era when dubstep drops have begun to replace guitars among the Warped Tour set, Wavves might at first come across as reassuring or refreshing.

But while much of the music that Wavves seems to consider an influence had its moments of balancing angst with silliness, "Afraid of Heights" begins to feel uniformly bleak. Lyrics like "none of you will ever understand me" ("Lunge Forward") sound as much like lazy retreads of past Wavves songs as they do like an upset teenager's poetry.

It's great that Wavves have finally started caring enough to write some cool songs, but sometimes it's hard to see why we should care about such a disinterested viewpoint.

In concert: April 1 at Subterranean

Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic

Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.

 

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • 'Great team effort' by joggers saves man in Lake Michigan

    'Great team effort' by joggers saves man in Lake Michigan

    During an early morning jog along Lake Michigan with his wife and children Tuesday, John Corba spotted a man struggling in the water nearly 30 yards from the shore.

  • Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    As a founding member of the Grateful Dead, Bill Kreutzmann watched the world change from behind his drum kit, shoveling coal in the wildly tribal rhythm section as the Dead went from San Francisco underground curio to ground-breaking indie outfit, then progenitor of the improvisation-based rock...

  • Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    The cliché that colors every good rock star story is “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll." For the Grateful Dead, the trailblazing rock band known for its improvisational style, revelatory live shows and dedicated fanbase, there was that and so much more.

  • 10 best movies of 2015 so far

    10 best movies of 2015 so far

    The year’s half over! How did that happen? No idea. With six months of a good year of movies in the books, let’s see how the Top 10 list is looking, with a quote from each respective review. Note: There are a few I’ve seen that I really like that haven’t yet opened in Chicago, and those aren’t...

  • If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    Nearly 5 million more Americans would qualify for overtime pay under new rules proposed Tuesday by the Obama administration, a long-anticipated move expected to affect a broad swath of salaried employees from store managers to social workers to restaurant shift supervisors.

  • Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Unlike previous summers, UniStaff is experiencing a spike in job applicants at its Little Village location, a trend the branch manager says is tied to the city's minimum wage increase to $10 per hour beginning Wednesday.

Comments
Loading