Life Sux is an ironic title for the new Wavves EP because for the first time since the band’s inception, life for frontman Nathan Williams doesn’t actually suck. His band put out their best (read: actually listenable) album last year, things are still great with girlfriend Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast, and now he has his own brand new label in Ghost Ramp.
Life Sux is Ghost Ramp’s first release, and also Williams’ “Look at my new label!” EP. These things tend to be a dumping ground for all of the band’s less inspired material, but that’s not entirely the case here. This EP is another step in Wavves’ progression from unlistenable noise to lo-fi pop punk; the same sound of King of the Beach shows up on Life Sux, but the band sounds more confident. Opener “Bug” has a freewheeling energy (not to mention a catchy riff), and encapsulates what Waves has come to sound like: distortion, an active bassline, and lots of snarl from Williams.
Looking at Life Sux, every song aside from “Bug” experiments in some way. “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl” tests how long a song Wavves can squeeze out of an idea (it’s also a shoe-in for the best song title I’ve heard all year). The tempo’s only a little slower than the band’s usual material, and Williams still lays on his “I can’t get my life together” rhetoric until a chorus that alternates between “I wanna meet Dave Grohl” and “I wanna be Dave Grohl”, and ends with chants of “Still never gonna stop me”. It’s something like two songs stuck together, but it works.
The EP peaks dead in the middle with “Nodding Off”, featuring Bethany Cosentino. Her input is reduced to harmonies on the chorus, but the chorus is so incessantly catchy that you can’t help but sing along. It’s a little catchier than Wavves’ other material, but still as aggressive and loud, teasing at future collaborations between indie’s favorite stoner couple. Between the loud and soft dynamics and boneheaded guitar riffs, “Poor Lenore” comes across as a grunge tune. It’s a typically experimental track; it kind of works and it kind of doesn’t.
At any rate, it works a lot better than “Destroy” (featuring members of Fucked Up). There’s plenty of energy to the song, but no direction. The song suffers from some serious underwriting; after about a minute, it becomes clear that the song was thrown together just to give Wavves and Fucked Up a reason to play together. It’s worst crime is being repetitive, but it does end the EP on something of a stumble.
Wavves seems like the kind of band that’s suit to an EP more than a proper album. Life Sux runs about twenty minutes shorter than King of the Beach, but has only slightly fewer ideas than the full album, and doesn’t sound as thinly spread. When you get right down to it, two songs work really well, one works, one kinda works, and one really doesn’t; an ok track record for a band that’s still really getting its footing. Three and a half stars out of five.
tl;dr: Life Sux doesn’t have to, 3.5/5.