"King of the Beach." Wavves. Wavves brainchild Nathan Williams rose to notoriety after quitting his retail day job to record grimy skate-rock on shoddy equipment -- moving from being just another nameless San Diego beach punk to having his shows covered by the New York Times and playing in huge festival shows in Europe.
Williams, just barely out of his teens, did what perhaps many of us would: He freaked out. He fist-fought his drummer, had a high-profile drink- and drug-fueled meltdown on tour overseas, lost his backup band and had a public spat with Atlanta scum-rockers The Black Lips -- which reportedly ended in a vaguely pathetic physical scrap.
Despite the backlash, Williams regrouped with the late Jay Reatard's rhythm section and connected with studio pro Dennis Herring (Elvis Costello, Modest Mouse).
The result is "King of the Beach," a slight departure from the kitchen-sink noise techniques of earlier releases, polishing away the abrasive edges to reveal the buoyant hooks previously left beneath a haze of fuzzy effects.
Not to say that "King of the Beach" doesn't still have the same quality of reckless abandon and genre-appropriate levels of self-loathing. The opening title track, comprised of chiming guitars, nasal harmonies and surges of distortion, brings to mind how those same basic components made Nirvana and Green Day sound so euphoric nearly 20 years ago.
Williams' scruffy pop-punk is still informed by his skewered, paranoid perspective, and this insularity lends itself well to the atmosphere of isolation and loneliness lurking beneath the candy-colored psychedelia of "Baseball Cards" and galloping power-pop of "Post-Acid."
Back when he had his European lapse into bone-headed behavior, the backlash against Williams and his Wavves project was pretty severe. The implication was that the project was the sort of flash-in-the-pan curiosity that maybe shouldn't have moved beyond small all-ages venues in San Diego.
"King of the Beach" counters those notions with what can legitimately be called a huge artistic leap forward. It's as good punk-rock as you're likely to hear this year.