Wavves, a.k.a. San Diego native Nathan Williams, remind me of a trip Matt Horseshit might have taken to the West Coast to visit his surfin’/skatin’ cousin/alter ego. Dial back to the late ‘80s and it makes even more sense. Williams introduced Horseshit to his parents’ bullshit new-age spirituality of macramé Krishna shrines and pink crystals, and Horseshit probably packed a Devo cassette along for the journey. The next vacation, while in their early teens, Williams dropped a motherload of Circle Jerks and Suicidal Tendencies, Vision Street Wear, Sex Wax, and porn on laserdisc, while Horseshit versed him on how to get the most from an overblown boombox recording—this time the cassettes were of his own design. They didn’t see much of each other after the summer of 1992, but the influence they had on each other’s future songwriting endeavors was ingrained in every crevice. This is total fiction have you, but there’s something oddly similar in the way Wavves is the optimistic, sun-soaked, doppelganger of Horseshit’s Midwestern splattered doom-pop.
This first cassette (soon to be released on vinyl by Woodsist) is filled with naive amounts of fuzz and ear-bleeding racket. It’s full-on gazing at the rainbow altimeter as it reaches new heights. Beneath all the glamorous crust and million-wrong/right-note solos is William’s knick-knack pop. The theme song of sorts, “Wavves” is loaded with irresistible “woo-hoos” and “ooh-aahs,” amusing attempts at Beach Boys harmony, accented with time-tested garage rock. Littered within are spitwads into an abyss of purple darkness like “Space Raider” and “Spaced Raider,” two of the album’s highlights with Wavves experimenting on spooky dub and reverb. Ariel Pink would be a great touring partner, as this is a one-man show—a psychotic octopus at the controls. Highly recommended.
In what is the first head-scratcher in the resurrection of Siltbreeze Records, Refuge in Genre, the sophomore effort of San Francisco’s Hank IV is an album that requires no upper-level thinking to appreciate. Not that any of the visceral barbs from this year require thoughtful attention, there’s just no need to dig, or scratch, or peel anything back here. Hank IV are the farthest thing from the lo-fi jumble done by their label mates, in fact this may be the most hi-fidelity record the Siltcult has ever released (unless you count that Yips title).
Throughout Refuge in Genre, the quintet survive through an identity crisis: is what they do cock-driven pub-rock founded on knuckle-dragging riffs and knuckle-chewing lyrics (“Wednesday is Sunday”) or are they borderline art-queers twisting melodically wonky guitar lines with off-kilter rhythm shifts?
Vocalist Bob McDonald may shed some light on the mystery, being part of the hardcore pedigree with his time in Denver’s Bun Kon and on these songs sounding like Jello Biafra or Ron House after a carton of Basics—the DK’s by way of Clevo-Columbus and a brown weed addiction. That’s especially true on “Dirty Poncho,” where Andy Oglesby and Anthony Bedard do little coital dancing and instead make an ugly mess of ballsy punk cues, sharp and disorienting, around McDonald’s menacing bark. Even without the distortion, static and reverb their counterparts embrace, getting past the shock of something that sounds like Zen Guerilla with a Siltbreeze seal is enough of a challenge. A few trips through, though, will eventually wipe clean the creepy, cheap feeling the lyrics give off, and you’ll learn to appreciate just how far-out those guitars actually get.
Kevin J. Elliott