19 March 2009

Catching up with the Wavves and Black Lips

From the West Coast to the East, from Noise Punk to Garage Punk, here are two recent albums that you should take a listen to, which really represent an underground American attitude that is becoming more and more prevalent. Though one relies heavily on distortion, and the other is crisp, both generate urgency with a sense of sincerity and straightforward song writing, devoid of any production shticks, or any attempts of getting an audience to love them.

Wavves: “Wavvves”

There is no doubt with titles like “Gun in the Sun,” “Weed Demon,” “Beach Goth,” and “Surf Goth,” there is both elements of California and tongue-in-cheek in the Wavves sophomore album “Wavvves” (17 March 2009). This is really a one-man band, Nate Williams, who has the ability to tap into the late teen / early twenties anxiety in a straightforward manner: “Got no car, got no money, I got nothin’, nothin’ at all. Got no god, got no girlfired…” (“No Hope Kids”) When most artists are feigning a sense of universal connection, Williams’ musical minimalism and lyrical simplicity is the real deal. There is no attempt at writing about a world that exists outside of his existence; this album is like photographs capturing candid moments in the life of a twenty-two year old slacker.

Heavily distorted sounds, appropriate for our sound-byte, double talk culture, the album finds a mellow low in the middle with “Weed Demon” (punk, surfing, and California, what else would you expect?) Like a good, sunny Californian and punk rocker, there is a definite parody of Goths and references to skating. The closing track, “Surf Goth,” an oxymoron if I ever heard one, is probably more in line with the classic gothic sound than most of what passes for Goth these days.

Disingenuously, William sings “I’m just a boy with nothing to say…” (“Get in the Sun”), or perhaps he does not realize this album is the voice of a generation of punk rockers tired of hearing the same old, cliché phrase that punk is dead. And though I never buy that crap about musicians saying that they write music for themselves (if they did, they would be content to write and perform in their garages instead of painstakingly searching for a record contract, touring, and pouring countless money into promotions), with Nate Williams there is this feeling that this is “him.” No attempt at a stage persona, and if you don’t like what you are listening to, well fuck it and go to another list on your iTunes.

Track Listing:
1. Rainbow Everywhere
2. Beach Demon
3. To the Dregs
4. Sun Opens My Eyes
5. Gun in the Sun
6. So Bored
7. Goth Girls
8. No Hope Kids
9. Weed Demon
10. California Goths
11. Summer Goth
12. Beach Goth
13. Killr Punx, Scary Demons
14. Surf Goth

Keep up with Wavves at MySpace.

Black Lips: “200 Million Thousand”

Hailing for Georgia, “200 Million Thousand” (24 February 2009) is Black Lips fifth studio album. One of the most prolific bands out there, they have released five albums since 2003. It reminds me of the many veterans in the 1980s. It was one album after the other, yearly in fact, but it was that urgency in having to compose and record, and then perform new music that created a sense of vitality and the willingness to experiment with structure, lyrics, and production styles.

“200 Million Thousand” is the first album to finally coincide with the quirkiness that this band brings to the stage. The album has more of a vintage style, really wearing influences on their sleeves (New York Dolls, Troggs); however, this album is not all upbeat, straight-out rock. There are some slower, more experimental, bordering on psychedelic, tracks. “Trapped in the Basement,” with backing vocals coming close to insanity, will take a listener by surprise, creeping them out a bit. “I’ll Be with You” and “Drop I Hold” are examples of pastiche done perfectly well – definitely looking towards the past for the sound, but infusing their own sense of modern in your face that would not fly yesteryear: “feel so lame, what a shame, smoke my brain, got no name, is insane, what a game…” (“Drop I Hold”)

But Black Lips are at their best when rocking. “Drugs” will get thinking of old day rock dance halls, while “Short Fuse” is a solid pop song that will hook you. Some critics have discarded this album as a great attempt at sounding like the past, but what they may have missed is the fact that is album is more of the next step in a generation of Southern rock meets punk rock. This is not about honoring the past, but bringing it one step into the future. The Black Lips finally have got me to call myself a fan, because they have shown me a craftsmanship that acknowledges everything they have done, their influences, and how they can continue to write music that is fresh, new, and adds onto the canons of a genre.

Track Listing
1. Take My Heart
2. Drugs
3. Starting Over
4. Let It Grow
5. Trapped in a Basement
6. Short Fuse
7. I’ll Be with You
8. Big Black Baby Jesus of Today
9. Again & Again
10. Old Man
11. Drop I Hold
12, Body Combat
13. Elijah
14. I Saw God
15. Meltdown

Keep up with Black Lips at their homepage, MySpace, and their YouTube Channel Blacklipstv.

Here is their video for “Short Fuse.”