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Polaroids Of Androids

Record Reviews

8.5

Wavves
Afraid Of Heights

This album starts with what sounds like a Christmas carol and we're immediately reminded of that time Nate and Betsy Coast made a cringe-worthy song about the birth of Christ. Cutesy punk love is disgusting. Just ask Sid.

Thankfully, the opening track isn't a Xmas carol at all, but Nathan "Williams" Wavves at his very best — rolling the twelve-sided Life Dice, chasing some son and yolo-ing harder than Richard Ross in the pole position on the Miami Grande Hotel buffet line.

Speaking of which, there was a time when we devoured EVERYTHING Williams served up. Then he cleaned up his act, because, well, he'd be flogging a deceased, lo-fidelity cassette horse if he didn't — lying to us, himself and everyone in the process. In a *recent* interview he explained that The Record Label railroaded his last album, 2010's King Of The Beach, sucking the life out of it like Thomas Green attempting to resuscitate a horse that's disguised itself as an audio transfer device and unceremoniously sandwiched itself into a Sony Walkman.

On that, what's the current stance of selling out in punk music? Plenty of the songs here neatly bottle that euphoric sense of riding off into a sunset with a Corona in one hand and an upsized Whopper in the other, equally suitable as the soundtrack for a high-school skate video or an IKEA advert or a commercial where the Swedish Furniture shows off their new line of assemble-it-yourself skate ramps. Fuck they'd be hard to put together.

Conversely, everything comes together here. The precise measures of vagrant punk freedom, the floating, blunted carelessness, angsty snap-kicks of mild rebellion, confined pop focus, spit-shined production. Even the tiny, sidetracked experimentation attempts (that fucking cello) are well-balanced and aren't overplayed, seemingly more a by-product of late night, stoned eBay purchases. Best of all, there's no Convertible Balloon Part 2.

And like that aforementioned Whopper, this record is cheesy as fuck. But (similar to the formatting of this review up until this paragraph) Afraid Of Heights is built on it's own unashamed form of simplicity. Cleverly avoiding all temptations to re-invent wheels, Williams simply plays to your lust of pop-punk-grunge nostalgia, attacking the familiarity of those hooks and riffs with such vigour that he makes them his own. He sounds completely rejuvenated, fresh and genuinely excited about what he's doing here. The result is a record that feels much like a debut — spontaneous and free of external pressures — yet clearly defined by a well-formed set of stylistic parameters and obvious endpoints. Williams, although still remaining heavily baked, now seems to have a clear directional focus for his sound.

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