It’s clear just from the title of surf-rock/pop punk group Wavves’ fourth album “Afraid of Heights” that the band has recently been through some tough times. Fortunately, it appears they have emerged no worse for the wear — the album features 14 tracks about the inner turmoil that we all struggle with from time to time.
Wavves continue the indie surf-rock trend popularized by bands like Best Coast and Surfer Blood with a record that is just as sunny and bright as their last. “Afraid of Heights” opens with cheerfully chiming synths on “Sail to the Sun” before slipping into a sultry bassline over drums that try their best to knock your teeth out. Lead singer and frontman Nathan Williams shouts verses in a voice reminiscent of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, but also keeps things interesting with a variety of whistles and wails.
Lest anyone say Wavves have nothing new to share, the track “Dog” features an endearing, bass-centric melody with a strumming guitar riff and the surprise addition of a cello in the background. Rather than sounding out of place, the cello strengthens the instrumentals for a more mature, polished sound.
In various interviews, frontman Nathan Williams has mentioned dealing with depression and anxiety while working on the album, which is apparent through songs like “Paranoid” and “Everything Is My Fault.” However, it’s hard to tell whether or not he’s being sincere when he sings lines like, “We’ll all just die the way that we lived/In a grave, in a grave, in a grave,” in a monotonous, adolescent drawl.
While the album shines in its instrumentals, tracks falter with repetitive lyrics that are shallow and self-absorbed rather than introspective and honest. The song “That’s On Me” features a Foo Fighters-influenced guitar riff that is certainly enjoyable but repeats the words “That’s on me” numerous times in a way that emphasizes the self-indulgent nature of Williams’ brand of moodiness.
Overall, “Afraid of Heights” is well-composed and contains numerous tracks that are sure to be hits with fans and critics alike, but it does little to delve into the complexities of depression and anxiety beyond indulging in clichés. For all of Williams’ talk about getting older and more mature, there’s not much in “Afraid of Heights” that we haven’t heard before.
Alexandria Ethridge is music editor. Email her at [email protected]