Bedroom-born indie is transformed into luscious examinations of the human condition.
Mike Diver 2010-06-09
Jack Tatum, aka Wild Nothing, has an uncanny ability to transform bedroom-born lo-fi indie into lusciously textured examinations of the human condition that pluck at the heartstrings and tug at the tear ducts. After spending time in tropical-punk outfit Facepaint and having explored more traditional singer/songwriter territories as Jack and the Whale, the Virginia Tech student has arrived at a stylistic crossroads where gentle blog-buzz intersects pop immediacy most hyped-to-the-hilt newcomers would kill for. Gemini probably won’t outsell same-year debuts from The Drums, Avi Buffalo and Surfer Blood, all of whom have had their share of pre-release coverage. But it deserves to.
The sweetness of Tatum’s exquisite melodies, often wrapped tight in a comforting blanket of distortion and propelled on their way by simple but effective percussion, is consistently tempered by his lyrical predilection for pessimism. Track four here is even titled Pessimist, and opens with the line: “Boys don’t cry, they just want to die”. Hopefully Tatum is not actually writing from a position of irreversible bleakness – after all, it’d be tragic if the enjoyment experienced by the audience came at a cost to the artist.
His music does present fairly familiar touchstones. Contemporary parallels are there to be made with similarly solitary musicians, working from a room that might also be where they sleep: think Atlas Sound and Toro Y Moi, albeit when the latter is more dizzied and druggy than in obvious awe of J Dilla. There are traces of Manchester’s past in the arrangements, too, as the occasional guitar line triggers thoughts of New Order as assimilated by Memory Tapes, and Tatum’s endearing melancholy is comparable to that expounded by a certain Steven Patrick Morrissey. But despite the abundance of nods to assumed influences, Gemini sounds remarkably original – maybe not in terms of its foundations, but certainly the manner in which Tatum melds downbeat discourse with delectable instrumentation. It’s as if every line on his blueprints has been smudged, the edges running over each other so that the whole becomes much more than a simple series of standalone tracks.
A closing line akin to “believe the hype” would suit, if there was much to confirm. There isn’t a whole lot of Wild Nothing out there – but what’s here is so perfectly formed, albeit with material misery accompanying apologues of love, that it sells itself without the need for attention-grabbing overstatement. (Whoops.)