Rayon Beach
This Looks Serious

File Wavves in the “Where are they now?” column. Sure, I know where Nathan Williams is headed—toward being a caricature of his beachcombing, weed-huffing, cat-sitting self, both sonically and aesthetically—but where is he now and where should he have gone given the buzzbin mania thrown at his first two tapes? Lo-fi was back in 2009, but just as quickly as Williams had risen, others took his barely ignited torch and ran farther and farther into the aether. Wavves now sounds culturally blank, and Williams’ subsequent music is even more soulless—lo-fi aloofness, packaged as a commodity that’s as kitschy as Garfield smoking a joint. Despite licensing his own line of bongs, rolling papers, and dope grinders, Williams is taking it all too seriously, a fault many of the bands created in his wake never thought to consider.

Austin trio Rayon Beach (and arguably a whole slew of the city’s groups) has yet to succumb to Wavves-itis, instead embracing a purity and fuck-all attitude that evolves the lo-fi pop, garage-as-temple devotion and execution into a realm Williams missed. That the band doesn’t take its “art” too seriously is the first impression one gets from the cover of This Looks Serious. It’s a scene from a “very special episode” of Family Ties (the one where Michael J. Fox becomes hooked on amphetamine) that screams Rayon Beach is a bunch of goofs. Theirs is an energy that elicits absolute fun in looking back. Mentioning contemporaries of Rayon Beach, back to the Ponys and onto Box Elders and Ganglians, is worthless. These days there’s so much in-the-red retread, it’s a chore sifting through it all. And even though it’s evident with the initial blast of “Some Fun Before We Die” that they’re trolling in the school of Troggs slog and other instances of caveman pop, you can hear the genuine glee in just trying to capture teenage abandon (“stealing beers from the CVS”) before the wobbling tape decays. When there’s absolute fun, there’s no formula, nothing’s sacred, and nothing’s not worth salvaging. This Looks Serious is a kaleidoscopic junkyard of sonics. “I Have No Body” and the instrumental “Boys and Girls” play quirkily propulsive new wave foil to the glittery post-punk dread of “Airplane with Tits.” And elsewhere, their primal roots shine in the Texas sun-fried psych of “Staring Out of an Apartment Window” and butt against the blown-out slime of “All the Time I Want to Be with You.” However, most of the album, which is best summed up on the anthem “Oh Yeah,” coalesces into a ball of ebullient, claustrophobic pop, relentlessly simple and snotty in its execution, heartfelt and giddy at its core.
Kevin J. Elliott