Barcelona, May 2013. I’m sat backstage at the Primavera Sound festival with fellow DiS scribe Dom Gourlay and Jack Tatum, the 20-something Brooklynite who is, effectively, Wild Nothing. 'I’m not just trying to ape New Order for the rest of my life,' says Tatum. Dom and I quickly glance at each other: it’s an awkward moment as, while we’re both fans, we’d noted the near-painful similarities between the two during the band’s preceding set.
Well, the good news for Jack is that his/their third album, Life of Pause doesn’t really recall New Order. The problem is that it is simultaneously everything and nothing. It’s an album that epitomises white male twenty-first-century indie. It’s a good album, and I like it. But similar to how Freud said in Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious 'I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member,' our reviews editor Andrzej Lukowski once joked 'Ugh, this sounds just like something I would like'.
Life of Pause has all the components that would have made it a contender for an indie website’s album of the year four or five years ago. There’s the afrobeat-y xylophone riff that opens the album on ‘Reichpop’, straight from the Vampire Weekend playbook. ‘A Woman’s Wisdom’ combines staccato synths with a woozy guitar line that you could probably convince yourself was something David Gilmour played on a Kate Bush record in the Eighties. There’s a clear shoegaze influence on the whirling, chopping guitars of ‘Japanese Alice’ and ‘To Know You’. The title track is a euphoric electropop. ‘Alien’ and ‘Whenever I’ combine ghostly keyboards with ethereal treated vocals.
All of these things are great, things that I and – I would guess – Wild Nothing’s fans love. They’re the exact same things that caused Nocturne and the Empty Estate EP (to my mind their best piece of work) so well received. Indeed only ‘Adore’ – a slightly cloying piano/acoustic guitar ditty – is what you would consider a weak song on here.
Perhaps then it’s because I’ve turned 30 and become more cynical that new music has to work harder to excite me (no, it’s the children who are wrong). Perhaps Jack Tatum is just such a talented bastard that this kind of thing comes easily to him. Life of Pause sounds effortless but not in a good way: it sounds like a de rigueur acclaimed indie album. It sounds like a record that’s designed to be acclaimed and liked but not remembered. The extra spark that made the likes of ‘Chinatown, ‘Paradise’ or ‘The Body in Rainfall’ such magnificent, memorable tracks is missing here.
It is hard to criticise such a well-crafted, enjoyable album that appears to have been made specifically with someone like me in mind. The thing is that in six weeks’ time it will be even harder to remember it.
5Dan Lucas's Score