'ZZ New Wavves'
Grafik Magazine #185, 2010
By Magnus Voll Mathiassen
ZZ Top is my all time favorite band. Friends pick on me for that. Except one. He recently got the letters 'ZZ' on his new car plate. He specifically asked for this at the DVLA for his green Toyota.
With the albums 'Eliminator' (1983) and 'Afterburner' (1985) ZZ Top was on the top of the world to me – musically and visually – when growing up in the 1980s. Hipgnosis may have created mysterious and acclaimed cover art, but to me the world of ZZ Top is still a fave regarding communicating (mystifying) through cover artwork and performance (The name 'ZZ Top' is rumored to be a tribute to blues legend B.B. King. ZZ Top was originally a more classically oriented blues-rock band in the 1970s). ZZ Top represents synthesizers, blues, long-legged girls, big beards, custom cars, Texas and dust. And much more.
I saw my first ZZ Top concert last year. I can't think of many who could possibly pull off animations of "Tex-mex" food on a big screen to increase their coolness.
Wavves represents something quite different. One of the genre tags is "shitgaze" according to Wikipedia. The music is noisy, youthful, nostalgic, distant, distorted and melodic. It has a certain West Coast/Californian feel to it. What drew my attention to Wavves (Wavves is Nathan Williams' project) was the band name itself. It is a very geometrically constructed word. Wavves' first release is entitled 'Wavves' (2008) while the second release is entitled 'Wavvves' (2009). The idea behind the band name and album names can be of formal reasons, referential or made up by chance. I don't know. The name game got me curious. It is mystical. It made me want to hear the music (which I instantly loved and still do).
My listening habits have changed according to the digitisation and the shifts in the music industry. I spend a lot of time listening to music podcasts. To me these podcasts are the equivalent to the mixtape cassettes we regularly swapped as kids and teenagers. At that time the band name was our main, or only, source for information. I find myself in the same situation now as back then. I don't pay that much attention to cover art anymore. ZZ Top may have used aesthetics and narration to the maximum, but you seldom need more than a name for your music project. What ZZ Top and Wavves have in common is their geometrically constructed band names and musical skills. And that is actually no more then what a music fan needs to get excited.
There will always be produced good music no matter who and what runs the music industry. The only thing that will change or be replaced are formats and the people working around the melody makers (By the way, 'Melody Maker' – the music magazine – was published for the first time in 1926 before merging with NME in the 1990s). Things usually don't die, they just shapeshift.