It doesn’t take long for Nathan Williams to get straight to the point on Hideaway. The album’s title track, slotted second in the album’s sequence, contains the entire album’s modus operandi right in the first chorus: “I’ll do my best to hideaway/From all of the bullshit chasing me/I don’t care if time’s erasing me/It’s been torture existing this long.”
Everything you need to know about Wavves, and their new album Hideaway, and bandleader Williams’ state of mind during recording, can be distilled in these four lines. Throughout the album, fears and doubts are combated with vicious kickbacks, some hardcore Positive Mental Attitude, and a flurry of electric guitars. This is pop-punk with a rougher edge and more potent message than not fitting in at high school or chasing girls.
Not that any of this should be news to Wavves fans. Created as an outlet for Williams’ acid-soaked, anxiety-fueled indie rock, the band have been kicking around and putting out monster albums for well over a decade. As stylistic touches like surf rock guitars lines and well-mic’d live drums began to replace the endearingly shitty lo-fi sound of the band’s first releases, Williams made sure that his lyrical concerns stayed consistent.
Williams’ mind, as we’ve come to know over six previous albums, can be a dark place, even if it also houses bouncy melody lines and shout-along choruses. Hideaway finds the singer alternating between getting caught up in his own worst thoughts and pushing back at them with a stronger mental fortitude. ‘Hideaway’ the song might imply that he’s avoiding direct confrontation with his pain, but there’s another important line in the song: “Today could be anything I want it to be/And that’s gonna be a reflection of me.”
These are the kinds of bolstering statements that mix with the more sombre realities of the constant unease that Williams isn’t afraid to lay bare, often within the same song. ‘The Blame’ once again mentions hiding (“It’s the kinda truth that you need to hide”) but also realises that there’s a positive result from dealing with trauma (“Where there’s darkness something always grows”). ‘Help Is On the Way’ finds Williams ultimately deciding to stay in the world that constantly brings him suffering because, ultimately, it’s still the one with the most surprises.
Musically, Wavves keep their desert scorched psychedelic rock sweet spot intact. Most of the time. I can’t exactly say I’m a fan, but the countrified twang of ‘The Blame’ was a hilariously unexpected left turn. The dynamic shifts of ‘Planting a Garden’ plays like a lost Pavement song, while album closer ‘Caviar’ uses bloopy synths to bring the album to a slow-burning electronica conclusion.
The biggest hurdle to Hideaway, and to Wavves on the whole, is Williams’ voice. It’s harried and unfettered and frequently straining to get the right notes out. If you need your singing to be perfectly pitched, you won’t find it here. But every time his melodies turn ragged and thorny, the true breadth of his emotions come to the fore. Would lines like “Drunk and screamin’ into the ether/Some people don’t live in the real world/Like a terror takin’ over the Earth/Like an atom bomb” have half as much of their power if they came from a more refined vocalist? I highly doubt it.
Perhaps the greatest part of Hideaway, then, is how the rough and less-polished aspects work in agreement, not in contention, with Williams working through the greater challenges of just getting through the day. The album is a fun, fast-paced, and breathless dead sprint that’s here and gone in less than half an hour, utilising every second for maximum impact. Hopefully, Williams can find his peace, but if his way to deal with the harsher aspects of life is through songs like these, then maybe he can keep finding those dark corners and address them through some healthy coping mechanisms: namely, kick-ass rock and roll music.