Punk was defined by an attitude rather than by a musical style -David Byrne
David Byrne, leader of the talking heads, nailed it. Punk isn’t flannel pants and military boots. It’s not just D G & A chords with heavy baselines. It’s not a green mohawk and a leather jacket. It’s not screaming and shouting. Yet it’s all these things, because punk is a style and a sound. But rationalism doesn’t say you define a person but their outward appearance so you must look at the heart of punk. And that is freedom.
Hardcore punk is about fighting the system. Stoner punk/surf rock is about coping with the system. That means heavy boozing, getting high, and having a fuck you attitude.
Wavves tend to lean towards the latter. “Ambivalent and young, we’re probably just dumb,” mutters Nathan Williams on the track Demon to Lean On. I got interested in Wavves when punk rock/noise rock badass Zach Hill joined as the drummer, who’s since departed the band.
But I remember hearing a raw sense of let’s just jam. Sometimes it sounds noise-y, often it sounds garage-y, but the lyrics always feel punk-y. Punk music is a zombie. It’s dead on the outside, but what gave it life still keeps churning on the inside. No person wants to be oppressed, and punk is the key to fighting that oppression. It’s the biggest similarity between punk and hip-hop.
Finding good new punk is tough as hell. And even when you find it, it’s only a matter of time before the fuel behind the fire runs out (rise against). But Wavves is different. They’re stoner punk, and as long as someone provides the green, they’ll keep making siq jams brah. The consoling sounds of “Always Be On My Own” help remind you that they won’t soon run out of a reason to fight the system, or should I say apathetically complain about the system.
This isn’t the music you throw on before committing anarchy in your local fight club. It’s more the music you blast in your coffee shop talking about how bad George W screwed up America. Wavves seem to polish dark and emotional topics like death and life into catchy riffs that sound like a summer day at the beach. Only the beach is a graveyard, and it’s the middle of fall.
This album is about survivalist. And surviving your surroundings is punk’s definition of evolving. “Afraid of Heights” doesn’t sound punk. It makes punk look dead, but like the drudging zombie, it’s just looking to ravage your brain. Lets hope these punk zombie bands evolve instead of letting punk go extinct.