Listening to Afraid Of Heights, the second full-length from SoCal pop-punkers Wavves, there's a lot to consider. The 2010 breakout King of the Beach blazed into the world along with frontman Nathan Williams' reputation as a stoner, slacker and out-of-control party animal.
Since then, Wavves has released an EP and Williams has been busy making beat tapes with his brother as Sweet Valley, collaborating with Big Boi and Fucked Up, and creating a comic book. He's begun to deeply care and Afraid Of Heights is the result.
Williams financed the record himself and the music gives away a mix of confidence and Williams' desire to prove himself. Nirvana and Weezer have already been declared as major touchstones -- the sound is more grunge than punk this time. Ideas have space to settle and play out. There are pretty guest vocals from Jenny Lewis. There's more acoustic guitar. There's a damn cello. And it works.
This record is notably darker than the last. Stoned beach days give way to loneliness and self-loathing. The only lyrics to the spacey, burned out “Everything Is My Fault,” are the titular line. That's followed by “That's On Me,” in which Williams asks, “Do you believe me?” and answers, “I don't believe in anything.” Album opener “Sail To the Sun” moans, “We'll all die alone just the way we live,” and the title track declares, “I'll always be on my own / fucked and alone.”
“Demon To Lean On” stands out as the most Nirvana track, and not just for the line “hold a gun to my head.” The bass line pulses with In Utero energy and the guitars go flow-blown grunge. There's just enough of Wavves' own sound to save it from being a painful copy. And speaking of Wavves style, it's not all gone. “Mystic” calls back to the hazier King of the Beach stuff, with walls of spaced-out noise and Williams' voice echoing in the background. “Beat Me Up,” despite the title, is a happier and propulsive beach jam. The riffs are surfy, the drums are splashy, there's a clapping rhythm.
So, here it is. This is what it sounds like when Wavves gives a shit.