I’m an Elvis man. I like Dick Dale. Wipe Out by Surfaris gets me every time. I went to an awesome Rockabilly show in the east end a while back and found that Billy Lee Riley or Curtis Johnson can always get me going.
So when I find a band like Wavves, it’s always exciting because they’re playing around in a forgotten genre that I have a soft spot for, taking it to new places.
Surf rock had a small window in the early ’60s to ride a wave of attention with the Del-Tones, Eddie & the Showmen, and, of course, the Beach Boys, before being washed back out to sea in around ‘66 or so.
While Wavves latest album Afraid of Heights, released in late March of this year, certainly plays around in the surf sound, they are not bound to it, and keep an indie rock edge when it comes to the writing. With songs about falling behind in life, cop killing (not quite in ICE-T’s league), and getting beaten up by girls, this is not your parents’ surf rock about drinkin’ beers on the beach and having oversized polka-dot bikinis.
Wavves are on their fourth album, and this one took them a year to produce because, well, in their own words, they like booze and weed. Not the best for productivity. In the end, however, what they’ve turned out is an album I can hit on repeat, and let it rock over and over. Their last album, King of the Beach, remains one of my favourites, and where I first discovered them. I highly recommend checking them both out to be a part of this updated surf sound.
For the title track, ‘Afraid of Heights’: it may have the woooo-hooo vocals of a beach blanket track, but they definitely bring it back to their loner guy mentality with lyrics about being drunk and ugly, finding Jesus, and being forever alone.
‘Lunge Forward’ and ‘Sail to the Sun’ also have the fast-paced, 4/4 tempo of traditional surf rock and definitely bring the vibe of the waves. But then there’s that chorus: “I hope he kills us all / Kills us all.” Oh. . . Or, how about: “In a grave, / in a grave, / in a grave.”
I’m a music guy. I like the music. The meaning of a song certainly means a lot to the band, but to me it’s about whatever feeling I associate with the sound. So, if they want to sing about being fucked up, and dying, and being paranoid, all the power to them, because I’m going to tap my toes, and bop my head, and dream about taking a long board out to catch one last ride before the Wavves are gone.