Wavves ride the pipeline back to their roots with latest LP ‘V’

It may have taken two and a half years and a storm of controversy surrounding the relationship with their record label, but San Diego surf punk upstarts Wavves are back today with the release of their fifth full-length, the appropriately-titled V.

It follows up their wildly successful previous effort, 2013’s Afraid Of Heights, an album that saw the band stretching out and getting experimental, boldly defying the confines of a genre that can often be a little hampered by its sheer simplicity. The results were some mixed critical reviews, but commercially the band never fared better, climbing all the way to 81 on the Billboard 200 off the back of radio favourites Sail To The Sun and Demon To Lean On.

Having released a short and sharp collaborative effort with Cloud Nothings earlier this year as well as dropping three singles as an appetiser for V, Wavves have made sure that the wait between albums certainly hasn’t been a yawn-fest of inactivity. The culmination of that wait is one of the most seminal surf punk albums of the modern era.

Heavy Metal Detox wastes not even a millisecond in kicking the album off with panache. It’s a song that figuratively shakes off the monster hangover of the last two years with a blast of lo-fi noise, it wouldn’t sound out of place on third effort King Of The Beach which has to please a fair chunk of Wavves faithful. The bendy, chugging guitars of lead single Way Too Much doesn’t immediately allow for a breather, building perfectly to a contagious chorus and a beautiful mid-song breakdown riff that will have you reaching for an air guitar (it’s not cool but you’ll do it anyway).

Third track Pony is an immediate favourite. A surfy love song that is catchier than the clap, a superb bass line from Stephen Pope driving the song forward, jangly guitars navigating the twists and turns. All The Same is a grinning middle finger to life’s worries, a nifty solo from Alex Gates punctuating the song as well as some quirky guitar effects over the chorus that add some very welcome depth. If you’re looking for a song to ease a ripper of a love-induced headache, you’re in the wrong place with next track My Head Hurts. The rapid-fire backbeat combined with some jarring lead guitar, a scuzzy rhythm riff, the whole track, including the vocals from Nathan Williams, is reminiscent of Dude Ranch-era Blink-182 in the best way possible.

The bass line that hurls Redlead off the blocks is more vintage punk and I’m swooning immediately. The song stop and starts right throughout, with the kind of riffs and experimental noise that punk grandfathers like the Dead Kennedys made a long career out of. The song is one of only a few to fade out, a doomy riff bridging the gap between it and Heart Attack. A militaristic and marching backbeat provide a much more paced track compared to the raucous and inhibition-free rest of the album so far.

Sophomore single Flamezesz continues to strip back the unbridled musical aggression just a little, sunny filtered through tremolo guitars keeping time over a scuttling bass riff in the background of the verses before a warmly familiar and gleefully noisy chorus kicks in.

Wait is all the better for its 60s-style percussion that bands like The White Stripes are famous for utilising. The fuzz setting on the guitars is at Jimi Hendrix’s afro levels of thickness and it combines wonderfully to create a fantastic throwback sound. Williams rips into each line of the chorus almost violently, which works a treat for me given his usual laid-back style. Penultimate track Tarantula features a spidery bass line holding hands with some angsty, drawn out and droning punk vocals and some more of those deliciously awesome garage nostalgia drums before the album wraps up with Break Free.

The final track starts off with some slow burning guitar strumming before launching into some hyper-aggressive, electric shock staccato riffing and a hand-clapping chorus, breaking down once again in between verses before the band unleashes every bit of musical energy they have left in the tank to finish off. It’s a wonderfully progressive cherry on top of a stunning album. (There’s a two minute bonus track in Fast Ice, some almost Beach Boys vocal harmonies in dare I say a ballad? It’s a nice little touch, even if it is slightly out of place with the rest of the album).

As a fan of Wavves, this is immediately up there with King Of The Beach in terms of how much I enjoyed this album. As a fan of  the surf punk genre, this is absolutely stellar. Throwback, vintage Wavves from start to finish. After Afraid Of Heights I had the impression that Wavves were keen to further push the boundaries of the genre. That the wait between albums and the dispute with their label was a byproduct of the hangover effect after four albums, a slog of touring and a general exhaustion. I was wrong. There’s having a quiet, hair of the dog beer and then there’s postponing your hangover by swigging Captain Morgan from the bottle. V is so very much the latter. It’s glorious, it’s scuzzy, it’s full of smart pop hooks and lo-fi noise and it’s everything you want from a surf punk album.

Wavves have ditched any kind of heady experimentation they may have hinted at last time around and have instead thrown straight back to the basics, and this album couldn’t be better for it. Get them in the country immediately.

V is out now via Inertia