Afraid of Heights
Mom + Pop
Mar 27, 2013 Issue #45 - Winter 2013 - Phoenix
Thus follows the Under the Radar guide to writing a decent surf rock song. (1) Get the guitars out and play something a bit Dinosaur Jr.-y. (2) Sound, like, laid back and whatever, dude. (3) Do something a bit Beach Boys-y, like a vocal harmony, some chimes, or going "woo-ooh-ooh-ooh."
Forgive us the cynicism, but it's probably not that hard. This isn't to detract, though, from San Diego's Wavves, one of the most accomplished surf rock outfits about (don't ask us to name another). Much of their appeal matches that of singer Nathan Williams' girlfriend Bethany Cosentino's band Best Coast: care-free, laid-back music to simply enjoy and not to overanalyse. If there can be accusations of a lack of ambition, there must also be praise for both Wavves' lack of pretension and their consistency.
Afraid of Heights carries on, unsurprisingly, where its predecessor King of the Beach left off... and indeed where it started. It's certainly at its most successful when it adheres to the blueprint above; tracks such as "That's On Me," "Paranoid," and "Afraid of Heights" are the kind of enjoyable pop-punk fluff that Weezer would nowadays look at with a sense of envy.
Given that lo-fi surf punk is by nature a pretty rudimentary genre, there's little point in expecting Wavves—sample lyric "Wooooeehooo, wooooeehoo, I'm paranoid, I'm paranoid" —to break any new ground here. Indeed, on this slightly-too-long-at-13-tracks album, the missteps come when they stray from the tried-and-tested blueprint (let's be generous and call these the more ambitious moments); "Sail to the Sun," for example, opens with chiming bells that leave you wondering if they've messed up the timing of the release of a Christmas album, and "Dog" drags as the hooks are abandoned in favour of a droning and tired refrain. (www.wavves.net)
Author rating: 6/10
Average reader rating: 6/10