Sound — 6
Starting out as just another humble millennial stoner with a guitar, Nathan Williams grew Wavves from an unapologetically lo-fi solo project into a fully-fledged indie punk band for his generation. As their third album, 2010's "King of the Beach," moved the project into a tidier (more tidy?) punk style, Williams also branched out into alt rock and power pop territory in the band's fourth album, 2013's "Afraid of Heights," though the responses to it were mixed.
Wavves pulled the reins back on that a couple years later, offering a more standard-bearing punk/noise rock style in their fifth album, "V," and appealing back to the nonchalant, DIY mentality in Wavves/Cloud Nothings collaboration album, "No Life For Me," both of which went over well with critics and listeners alike. But not being through with taking Wavves to new places, Williams makes another attempt to deliver more than the usual in the band's sixth album, "You're Welcome."
As opposed to the more obvious pivot that was made in the cleaner-cut "Afraid of Heights," Williams keeps a tighter grip on Wavves's hallmark of sounding rough around the edges. Plenty of the album delivers on the band's punk/noise rock expectations, whether it's the simple, two-progression riffs in the opening "Daisy" and the following eponymous song, the more elaborate "Dreams Of Grandeur," or the fleeting energy in "No Shade."
From that familiar zone, Wavves start bringing extra elements into the fold, like the synth arpeggios that sparkle about in the midtempo "Million Enemies," or the synthetic sub-bass and percussion running the verses of "Under" before handing the baton to the loud guitars in the choruses. However, a couple cases come far from left field. "Come To The Valley" loops a sample melody from what sounds like a theme song from a '70s game show on top of basic rhythms and singalong vocals, and "I Love You" has Williams trying his hand at soul with his own odd spin to it – both of these are drags on the album, and seem like goofs rather than experiments.
The other aspect that makes "You're Welcome" stick out for better and for worse is the vocals. Being another thing Williams dabbles with, his singing verges on a sweeter demeanor in "Hollowed Out" and "Animal," which could almost fool the listener into thinking it's someone else singing, and reaps the reward for that risk. In other cases, Williams suffers from belting out those long-sustained vocal melodies too often (a preference he had worn thin since "Demon To Lean On"), heard in the straining chorus of "Stupid In Love," and ruining the punk power of "Exercise."
Lyrics — 7
Compared to the lyrics in "V" shaping it up to be a breakup album of sorts, Williams's lyrics in "You're Welcome" reach out into other topics. Sure, there's still some pining for lost love ("In the sun I fall asleep / Dreaming about / The way things used to be" in "Stupid In Love") and fear of commitment ("The situation is fucked / But I'm not someone to run to / My heart stays locked in a cage" in "Dreams Of Grandeur"), but Williams's feelings of dread also manifest as societal angst towards a chaotic world in "Animal" ("The whole world covered in gasoline / And burning alive / I feel taken advantage of / And empty inside") and "Exercise" ("Dancing while the world is burning down / My head's on fire, feet can't touch the ground / I can't believe the shit they feed to us").
Tired and frustrated he may be, Williams nevertheless musters up some positive moments in "You're Welcome." His happy-go-lucky responses to hostility in "Daisy" ("They're shooting at me, grinning through their teeth / Not hitting a thing / Despite what it might mean, I'm not worrying"), "Million Enemies" ("I got enemies, a million enemies / But baby, and I'm feeling fine"), and the eponymous song ("I need some relief, let the world / Do its own spinning / Still I'm smiling, laughter fills the sky") show that Williams doesn't have to be dragged down by negativity if he chooses not to be.
Overall Impression — 6
Having established a strong home range of punk/noise rock quite a while ago, Wavves are still finding the best way to grow outwards from there. With "You're Welcome" being the next attempt at that, it's a more daring album than the play-to-your-strengths nature of "V," but while some of their leaps stick the landing, others show them falling on their face. The album still banks on enough of the band's dependable qualities to be satisfying enough, but the blunders that "You're Welcome" has aren't ignorable.