Nathan Williams lives a pretty charmed life, even if the title of his new EP — and the generally frustrated themes of ennui and malaise that pepper much of his catalogue — may indicate otherwise. This is a guy, after all, who can arguably include “getting stoned to The Price is Right and recording Sonic Youth covers” as a part of his job description. In times like these, that’s a pretty good way to spend a work day.
Then again, he’s an ambitious and prolific young guy who’s been put under the intense and unforgiving microscope of the indie music blogosphere. The three years he’s spent as a proper recording artist have probably felt to him like quite a few more. Maybe he’s just being hard on himself. “No, you’ll never get it all,” he sings on Life Sux‘s adrenalized opener “Bug,” perhaps speaking to the song’s creator. “Not in this world. See the writing on the wall. You’re no fun.”
And yet, much like 2010′s King of the Beach, which positioned Williams’s nasally vocal hooks front-and-center in a mix that was positively crystalline compared to his first couple albums, Life Sux is a pop-centric affair. It’s actually fun. It’s also enjoyably one-dimensional in scope, its half-dozen songs making no bones about their aspirations to reach the kids — via power chords and monster choruses — sitting in the very farthest corners of the arena’s nosebleed seats. “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl” sounds like it could’ve been written by Dave Grohl; “Bug” is a fist-pumper that would’ve fit in on Surfer Rosa, “Destroy” features vocals from Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham, and even the EP’s softer moments (“Nodding Off,” “Poor Lenore”) are buoyed by big, glorious, fuzzy guitars.
These are all pretty common reference points, but Williams is clearly relishing the chance to pay tribute with these songs. After all, you can’t cover Sonic Youth in a haze of weed smoke and game show applause every day. Variety is the spice, as they say. Without it, life would suck.