The Naked and Famous: In Rolling Waves

Auckland naturists the Naked and Famous expose themselves on a 'grown-up' (i.e. grumpy) second album.

The Naked and Famous

In Rolling Waves

Label: Republic
US Release Date: 2013-09-17
UK Release Date: 2013-09-16
Label website
Artist Website

The sugar rushin' electro-rock of the Naked & Famous' 2010 invigoratingly alive début Passive Me, Aggressive You had 'Contender' stamped all over it. Fronted by Alisa Xayalith and Thom "No relation to Kenny" Powers, this crafty Kiwi quintet seemingly saved from the fire all the precious things MGMT had so ceremoniously torched between Oracular Spectacular and Congratulations. Y'know, "Let's jump on the bed 'til it breaks" joy, "What does THIS button do?" wonder and starry-eyed pop so blessed with the mercurial mojo of melody it could unite punks and pensioners in sweet harmony.

Passive was so shiny, shiny, catchy, catchy it promptly became the inescapable sound du jour for everything, ever. Gossip Girl, Skins, One Tree Hill, Cabin in the Woods, Vampire Diaries, True Blood, yada yada. Teenage dreams a specialty, undead shenanigans optional. If In Rolling Waves is their attempt to progress, grow some whiskers and – eek, scary word alert! - "Mature" it's often sadly at the cost of what made them so darn appealing. It's as if in the three years since their début, Naked and Famous have aged in dog years. Gone are the top draw bangers, curious experimentation and playful pandemonium and in has come a soft-focus, 'Marriage guidance counseling session' purgatory replete with comfortable knitwear, sensible shoes and beige wallpaper. That's no longer the fiery taste of piss n' vinegar n' sherbert dip but room temperature mineral water from Himalayan springs.

The band themselves have described this as a "Darker" record. For "Darker" see "Less Colourful" or "Duller". Where Passive pogoed off the walls, Rolling Waves is content to ponder, pontificate, grump and wallow. Failure to launch is a common problem. Opener "A Stillness" initially teases spooksome ambient E.T. swirl with an acoustic, dandyish flourish akin to Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". But just as you brace yourself for the G-Force roar and the subsequent face melting... it ends and that's it. A slight but intriguing slowburn followed by minor fizzle and underwhelming fade and frustratingly typical of In Rolling Waves.

A crippling case of 'paralysis through analysis' cruelly curbs the enthusiasm for things "Naked" and/or "Famous" as the listener becomes captive witness to a carousel of chin-stroking, 'progressive' LA therapy meetings between Xayalith and Powers. The dour "Waltz" dabbles in psycho-babble over heavy-footed, plodding beats and sour guitars, "You walk in a rubble / You walk in a mess...There's a fox in the nest." It's one step away from agreeing not to "Steal each other's wind." The marital strife snowballs into the rocky melodrama of "The Mess", which is akin to a bitter, bruised husband and wife channeling their bile for each other through the medium of dodgy '80s karaoke. But not as much fun. Stress! Confessions! Forgiveness! Healing! Stained Walls!?! The main offender though is the seven-minute, grinchfest endurance test of the Powers-led "Grow Old" (Don't! It's a trap!). A Dawson's Creek diary of high drama in haute couture. It possibly comes with its own wind machine. All serious face, finger-wagging hokum about blame n' lies and amusingly includes that trumpcard smackdown "You've made your bed now sleep in it." When a pissed Xayalith retorts "Don't talk to meeeee...don't walk with meeee!" it's hard not to chortle at its preposterousness. The equally grouchy "We Are Leaving" brings more squabbles n' scoldings still, "I don't mean to make you curse / But it could have been much worse". Despite briefly echoing the prowling synth swirl from Crystal Castles' divinely unhinged "YES / NO" 'Stagediving' is sadly not on today's menu.

Though much of In Rolling Waves suggests Naked & Famous have gone from 'Youth gone wild' to 'Despondent, dead-eyed middle-agers' overnight there are some rebellious sparks of dissent amongst the drones. Mutiny Ahoy! Tellingly they're the Xayalith-heavy tracks. First single "Hearts Like Ours" is smart, sweet, sincere and – wowzer! – bursting with wildlife. "There's an animal inside," she swoons. It's glossy bratpack deluxe and feels like a song built with resplendent rainbows not rain and furrowed brows. "We're yet to bleed / All the time and energy" it bounces, kicking against the pricks. The slight, delicate "Golden Girl" strolls warm and bright whilst the buzzing "I Kill Giants" is 'Transformers with synths riding unicorns' cool. Dynamic ultra-shiny, unashamed and deliciously daft pop bursting with euphoria and too much Coca-cola. Elsewhere the acoustic, late summer in the park pop harmonies of "What We Want" flutter and sway like M83 at their most hazy-headed and romantic. The transcendent title track flies highest though. Majestic, epic stadium phoenix power-pop built with touch-the-sky verses and a sweeping chorus perfect for surfing, "LIKE! ROLLLLLLING WAYVVVES!".

But despite these intermittent blasts of sunshine the album parts on typically miserablist terms. "To Move With Purpose" falters with its trace of melody staggering through a smog of atmospherics, "I've heard a million people yelling / Ranting about nothing!". Closer "A Small Reunion" – two voices, acoustic guitars, violins, stools – dresses itself up as the heartbreaking 'Not a dry eye in the house' Grey's Anatomy season finale but just feels... well, like a performance. "We'll all get drunk and celebrate / Here's to me and here's to you!". Never toast with water y'all.

Stripped of much of the effervescent raw power that made their début so infectiously enjoyable, In Rolling Waves ultimately makes for a disappointing and frustrating experience. Not enough punching. Not enough dreaming. O Youngbloods, who put out your fire? Maturity is no excuse to drop thy sword.






Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone can undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.


Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".


The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.


The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.


Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.


​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.


John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".


Roots Rocker Webb Wilder Shares a "Night Without Love" (premiere + interview)

Veteran roots rocker Webb Wilder turns back the hands of time on an old favorite of his with "Night Without Love".


The 10 Best Films of Sir Alan Parker

Here are 10 reasons to mourn the passing of one of England's most interesting directors, Sir Alan Parker.


July Talk Transform on 'Pray for It'

On Pray for It, Canadian alt-poppers July Talk show they understand the complex dualities that make up our lives.


With 'Articulation' Rival Consoles Goes Back to the Drawing Board

London producer Rival Consoles uses unorthodox approaches on his latest record, Articulation, resulting in a stunning, beautiful collection.


Paranoia Goes Viral in 'She Dies Tomorrow'

Amy Seimetz's thriller, She Dies Tomorrow, is visually dazzling and pulsating with menace -- until the color fades.


MetalMatters: July 2020 - Back on Track

In a busy and exciting month for metal, Boris arrive in rejuvenated fashion, Imperial Triumphant continue to impress with their forward-thinking black metal, and death metal masters Defeated Sanity and Lantern return with a vengeance.


Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste' Reveals the Other Kind of American Exceptionalism

By comparing the American race-based class system to that of India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson makes us see a familiar evil in a different light with her latest work, Caste.


Anna Kerrigan Prioritizes Substance Over Style in 'Cowboys'

Anna Kerrigan talks with PopMatters about her latest film, Cowboys, which deviates from the common "issues style" approach to LGBTQ characters.


John Fusco and the X-Road Riders Get Funky with "It Takes a Man" (premiere + interview)

Screenwriter and musician John Fusco pens a soulful anti-street fighting man song, "It Takes a Man". "As a trained fighter, one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is to walk away from a fight without letting ego get the best of you."


'Run-Out Groove' Shows the Dark Side of Capitol Records

Music promoter Dave Morrell's memoir, Run Out Groove, recalls the underbelly of the mainstream music industry.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.