Release date: 13 July 2010
In its quest for an endless summer, King of the Beach wears its California lineage with pride. It's major-key and resplendently colored, owing as much to Orange County skate-punk as it does to the Beach Boys. In the past, Williams' 1960s fixation mostly manifested in some falsetto Brian Wilson oohs and ahs, and that's still his go-to hook. But the references here are drawn from an exponentially wider palette: The twinkly, lovelorn "When Will You Come" uses the evergreen "Be My Baby" beat, while "Mickey Mouse" cops from "Da Doo Ron Ron" and distills Person Pitch to a three-minute essence. The charm is hearing Williams going directly to the sources of his inspiration, whether it's the warped synth lope of "Baseball Cards" or the jingle-like facility of "Convertible Balloon".
Yeah, "variety" and "well-produced" are new concepts for Wavves, but even when Williams recalls his high-voltage past, the growth in songwriting is unmistakable. Catchy as they were, the melodies of "So Bored" and "No Hope Kids" weren't hooks so much as battering rams that broke through with sheer repetition. The bright production here allows the songs to go places. The title track is built on a chassis of four-chord power-pop, but it opens up enough to be filled in with oddball percussion, whammy bar damage, and a surprising key change. Even though the double-time slamdancer "Post Acid" reminds me of everything that was good about Lookout! or Epitaph, Williams lets us in on his sense of a good time before an impassioned delivery of one of 2010's most anthemic choruses: "Misery, won't you comfort me in my time of need?"
While King of the Beach manifests a quantum leap in Williams' confidence as a musician, from a lyrical standpoint, he's pretty much the same downbeat loner who made Wavvves. It's very much a punk record in attitude, but one that eschews its artier iterations and reps for the marginalized, snotty mid-90s heads like Green Day, MxPx, or even Blink-182, bands who were wrongly conflated with jock culture despite predominant themes of isolation, boredom, and sexual inadequacy. Though Williams never specifically addresses his real-life beefs, it's hard not to read into the self-loathing as real time commentary. His old friends hate him, girls won't listen, and he's fucked up. The mood never becomes oppressive, though. "I'm not supposed to be a kid/ But I'm an idiot/ I'd say I'm sorry but it wouldn't mean shit," isn't the most artful mea culpa, but like most of King of the Beach, there is power in its directness.
Williams has boasted that he wants King of the Beach to be his Nevermind, and while I'll go out on a limb and speculate that it won't change the music industry as we know it, it serves a somewhat similar function in introducing a talent who benefits from a pop polish. More pointedly, it might be derided because it owes more to Dookie than Doolittle and many might choose this as a soundtrack to drinking beer or starting a mosh pit. Some may see King of the Beach as a story of redemption or even an argument that a public shaming might do good for some of these younger bands. Either way, it's' a fantastic record, and you can't say Williams didn't earn it this time. Don't blow it, dude.
- Ian Cohen, Pitchfork, 2010