One of the great pleasures in life for me is to drop into a Jack Tatum(aka Wild Nothing) album and just get lost in his 80s-tinged dream pop. I dropped in with 2012s Nocturne and have been a major fan of Wild Nothing ever since. Tatum is all about the hook and the grandeur of a shimmering production, bringing to mind bands like Talk Talk, The Style Council, and even The Top-era Cure. But comparisons only go to help the newbie get an idea of what they’re in for, as Jack Tatum has honed in on what makes him so unique and one-of-a-kind in a sea of modern sameness.
Over the last two Wild Nothing records, the intellectual and artsy Life of Pause and the more lovelorn pop of Indigo, Wild Nothing have landed on a decidedly brighter and upfront sound. In a just world these records would be all over modern radio(and had they come out 40 years prior I’m sure they would have), but as it is Wild Nothing make perfect pop albums for those of us who stay away from FM airwaves nowadays.
On the new EP Laughing Gas Jack Tatum continues to push Wild Nothing into an almost euphoric pop sound. Keeping the artier fare of early 80s alternative/pop in the forefront(Talking Heads, Genesis, Roxy Music, Kate Bush), Tatum gives us a taste of where Wild Nothing is heading. Or maybe just where he is at the moment. Regardless, it’s a stunning place to be.
Those familiar with Wild Nothing’s previous record Indigo will feel right at home with the exquisite “Sleight of Hand”. Bright synths, jangly guitars, and Tatum’s airy vocals give us a pop song we can sink out teeth into(and hum in our brains all day.) Tatum approaches songwriting not so much as a formula, but more of a puzzle to put together. Intricate chord changes, organic instrumentation, and the vibe that you can feel the song as much as you can hear it. Old school song building, with a new school sound. “Dizziness” goes new wave with clean, flanged guitar, prominent bass line, and hand claps that place this song somewhere between The Fixx, OMD, and The Cure. “Foyer” lies somewhere sonically between a Michael Man soundtrack and a Re-Flex b-side. Beautifully contoured for long gazes and late night drives.
Elsewhere “Blue Wings” is carried by a prominent flanged bass line, acoustic guitar, and gorgeous synth strings with “mixtape” written all over it, while album closer “The World Is A Hungry Place” puts me in mind of early solo Sting with tasteful saxophone. Say what you will, but Dream of the Blue Turtles is a classic 80s record and a sound we could all use more of these days. Jack Tatum knows this. At least I imagine he does.
Laughing Gas does not disappoint, other than maybe wanting five more songs of this caliber attached. Either way, Wild Nothing’s gift to us in 2020 will keep on giving. Laughing Gas will certainly help with the pain and anxiety waiting just outside the front door.
8.3 out of 10
Laughing Gas is available now. Order it here.