On his debut album, Time’s All Gone, Nick Waterhouse plays a mixture of early rock and roll, blues, and soul. Waterhouse hails from California, and he was born in 1987, but his sound is that of his parents’ childhood: the 50s. In that decade, Waterhouse’s favored genres were still closely intertwined, before they began developing their separate identities in the 60s – either a coming of age or a devolution, depending on your tastes. It’s the time of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino and Bo Diddley, when bands began to spring up everywhere and fresh-faced kids in suits played music for high school proms (in the movies at least). Waterhouse recreates that classic sound with a glee that rivals the enjoyment experienced by teens when they first encountered this simple, propulsive music.
At 11 songs and 32 minutes, Waterhouse keeps everything short and sharp, as if he feels the urgency reflected in his record’s title and memories of the 50s are about to slip away into oblivion. Female backing vocalists echo the Waterhouse’s lead singing and provide the obligatory color of “oohs,” “ahs,” and “shoo-bops.” Horns move between repeated, jabbing single notes, basic stutters, and simple, tooting solos. The guitar and piano punctuate steadily or power a rhythm with pounding, choppy riffs. Frequently the band falls out to leave a brief silence, or just Waterhouse singing unaccompanied for a few beats, before the instruments hurtle back in, as if they were storing up energy to return with renewed vigor. Waterhouse can scream, holler, and growl; he can also sing with more of a croon. At times he drops into a lower voice, more confidential, as if he were talking to a single girl at the front of the crowd.
The possible flaw in Waterhouse’s record is that most of the 11 songs sound very similar. The building blocks and tempos of most of the songs are close to interchangeable and deeply ingrained in the country’s collective musical consciousness. At a certain point, it can be hard to distinguish one song from the next. However, since it’s just 30 minutes of mainly forward movement, this is hardly a major stumbling block.
The periods in American musical history that pop looks to for inspiration and emulation keep creeping back in time. Time’s All Gone is single-minded, but this is often good for a debut – better for a young artist to do one thing well then several things in mediocre fashion. Waterhouse shows himself adept at producing the energy and swing of the amalgamation of musical genres that was American pop music in the 1950s.