Nathan Williams is no stranger to introspection; Wavves’ 2015 album V acted as his post-breakup lysis, reasoning with pessimism while attempting to maintain self-worth. He’s no stranger to attacking with melody like most would with insults, wrapping them around You’re Welcome like decorative paper – nor is he unfamiliar with upping his sound, see the orchestral conduct of Afraid of Heights.
But what happens when all of this occurs at once? The answer is Hideaway, an introspective wrestling match with anxiety that has seen TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek recruited as producer, generating a loose crunch amid organic rock, and a hell of a lot of melody on Williams’ part.
Melody acts as an angel looming over Williams’ shoulder, offering reassurance as he blows towards the opposing demon on Honeycomb. Never has the phrase “I feel like I’m dying” felt so breezy, but this clash of mental states makes total sense, and if more of a roar were required, Sitek’s involvement comes in handy on the bridge, as everything suddenly loudens to match madness.
It makes more sense than Sinking Feeling; a calm waiting to snap, perhaps too aloof to convey a genuine sinking feeling. No, Honeycomb resembles a ‘Help is on the Way’, which distracts itself with laid-back tuneage, the kind of ‘drinking beer, watching TV, playing cards’ music required to find blissful ignorance, before very tuneful guitar picking lightens the finale on Caviar.
Melody then supplies therapy on The Blame, which lassos a little rockabilly into the fray, like an old Beck track but more keen to pay homage. Any deviation is warranted, particularly as Williams begins the album by yelling “can’t talk now, I’m going through hell” on Thru Hell, capturing a restless mind that swells with the barn-like gruff of Sitek’s production.
The mind spirals on the uber-catchy Planting a Garden, as the narrator hates Susie for not loving him, but loving who she thinks he is. Williams’ vocals whirl inside and out as it he adds as many notes as possible to certain words, almost as if it’s a self-aware taunt.
And that isn’t where the taunting ends, though it can become too grating and playground-like on My Prize. The title track decidedly uses irritability as a taunt, a means for attention before it becomes clear Williams only wants attention from himself. He’s simply making sure to keep himself on his toes while attempting to decipher which aspects of his anxiety are based on logic – “the field looks so pretty but it’s covered in landmines”.
Nathan Williams vows to be the troubadour of his own uncertainty. And why wouldn’t he? When you’re capable of such melody that lingers on the mind, evocatively wobbling through each track to pass the old, grey whistle test, you’d probably recruit yourself to play at your funeral, if that were possible.
And alongside the thoughtful recruitment of Dave Sitek, hand-pumping Wavves’ punk backbone to a grand shift in size, it makes Hideaway the most compelling Wavves release potentially since King of the Beach.