It’s tempting (to me, at least) think of Wavves in light of the financial crisis. At first glance, the sneering irony, the punk-like-fury without the punk, the air of apathy calls to mind the Gen X indulgences of the last economic cycle. And, given that Nathan Williams formed the band in 2008, wouldn’t it be easy to dismiss his (and Best Coast’s) music, as The Inquirer‘s Sam Adams does, as having “no women or… men … just girls and boys fumbling their way through an adult world”?
But when Adams dismisses Wavves as stumbling “on and off stage quickly enough, that no one was the wiser” to the monotony of their sound, I have to wonder: what show was he at? Ripping through a set that continually dragged people away from the cramped bar of Starlight, Wavves proved themselves something more. While “Idiot” and “I’m So Bored” have always sounded a bit flat to me on record, live and with the ecstatic playing of ex-Jay Reatard backers Stephen Pope and Jacob Cooper they were pulsing and angry but oddly delicate. On Tuesday, it was palpable that Williams’s subject is his own self-aware callowness: “I won’t ever die/ I’ll go surfing in my mind / I’m not supposed to be a kid / But i’m an idiot.” This is the sound of a generation waking up to find that the bright future they took as their birthright will never be inherited. This is the sound of a generation, despite their irony, despite their sneer, despite and because of their aggressive stance, that is deeply scared.
What Best Coast is I’m less sure. The crowd thinned after Wavves set, never a great sign for a headlining act, even if the opener is your boyfriend. And the fuzzy but slick playing of Best Coast’s album never materialized. The somnolence of Ali Koehler at the drums made me dream of Meg White: although Meg may not have the chops, she plays. Leadsinger Bethany Cosentino was still captivating (and fetching), despite a pre-gig trip to the ER for a respiratory infection. And the presence of a cover of Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City” was instructive if not particularly outstanding: with their pop sensibilities with country undertones, Best Coast should take a page from Lynn’s lovelorn, fierce, and perfectly-constructed songbook. As the band exists now, they have moments of pop brilliance (“When I’m With You,” “Girlfriend”) that unfortunately do not hold up well to sustained attention. A few too many songs that sound the same and end up making me wonder that for all their pleasurable packages, what’s inside?