Music

Wild Nothing Goes '80s New Wave on 'Indigo'

Photo: Cara Robbins / Courtesy of Captured Tracks

Indigo signals a throwback to Wild Nothing's previous LP Gemini while also traversing the sonic territory of '80s new wave.

Indigo
Wild Nothing

Captured Tracks

31 August 2018

Wild Nothing's Jack Tatum revels in dichotomies. The group's recent release, Indigo, signals a throwback to their previous LP Gemini while also traversing the sonic territory of 1980s new wave. Indigo showcases the fluidity of sound and Tatum's ability to find a balance between two opposing poles. Throughout the album, Wild Nothing is simultaneously vintage and modern while also sounding high and low-fi. As a result, Indigo is a reflection of erstwhile musical genres and the artist's own creative identity.

Indigo is a musical time machine. The opening drum rolls recall the 1980s new wave era by channeling the sound and energy of the Pet Shop Boys or Talk Talk. Indigo lands in the early stages of new wave, when punk rock's influence was still evident. "Letting Go" features guitars and keyboards that are anchored by a bruising bass guitar then accentuated by a fluttering synth. A similar balance between late punk and early new wave is echoed on the subsequent track "Oscillation" and revisited in the instrumental "Dollhouse". Tatum adds the styling of Benji Lysaght on guitar and Cam Allen on drums. For better or worse, the instrumental blending renders it difficult to discern the musicians' distinct contributions. At once this is an example of musical synergy but also a sign of overproduction.

The video for "Letting Go" is a similar homage to 1980s music culture. Draped in surrealist imagery, the video captures moments of the bizarre juxtaposed to the mundane. The camera cuts between shots of snails creeping toward their demise, a funeral, and the consumption of the magic mushrooms Liberty Caps. Throughout, Tatum is clad in an ill-fitting suit that reiterates the 1980s tendency to use dress to lampoon heteronormativity. The video also prominently features a muscled man only wearing a tiny speedo. In one particular moment, said beefcake is carrying Tatum in a pool and gently caressing his chest. The overt homoeroticism is another direct call to 1980s videos ranging from the Eurythmics video "Sweet Dream (Are Made of This)" to Billy Squier's "Rock Me Tonite". Whereas new wave artists evoked homosexuality to reject the strict definition of gender and sexuality, Wild Nothing's video verges more on a performance piece rather than subversive art.

If Indigo's instrumentation doesn't convince you of new wave's influence, then Tatum's vocals will. The album is packed with the compressed and reverberated vocals stylistically prominent in the early 1980s. Tatum even nails the distanced tinny echo so popular with new wave bands. For instance, to achieve that sound, Human League record a vocal layer for their single "Don't You Want Me" in the bathroom. Tatum draws from this influence specifically on the track "Shallow Water". "Flawed Transition" adds a sense of vulnerability as Tatum's repeats "let's stay together, let's stay together" thereby reinserting a sense of humanity against the vastness.

Wild Nothing's lyrics lack depth and frequently resemble a Wes Anderson script rather than matching the album's instrumental complexity. For instance on "Partners in Motion", the lyrics "I caught you in the dog house, drinking coffee with your new wife" paints an image of Bill Murray sitting against Anderson's color schematics. Similarly, Tatum overburdens the lyrics on "Bend" when he sings "Half-awake, I've seen her face / The angel swinging from the trapeze wire / Sad and lost with curly hair / And chicken feather dropped against her back." Here he verges on purple prose, and the lyrics seem excessive.

Despite the lyrical flatness, Wild Nothing does provide some social commentary on the overlap between technology and humanity. That is audibly expressed in the use of both electronic and analog instrumentation. For example, "Partners in Motion", features a brassy new jack-swing component that returns on "Through the Windows". This is an audible contrast to Wild Nothing's reliance on synths and reverb. Yet, the lyrics for "Closest Thing to Living" drive Tatum's perspective. The track begins with the suggestion that "A joke for the age of detachment / This is how we unwind / This is how we unwind / Together but alone / When I look at you/ It's a screen turned blue." Clearly, Tatum is responding to modernity's attachment to our smart devices and the inability to unplug even when we are in the company of others.

Indigo's strength is the blend of instrumentation and the replication of a bygone musical era. Wild Nothing's endeavor is certainly not revolutionary, but it does provide a musical comfort as it returns listeners to the new wave era. In doing so, Tatum easily expresses his own creativity while channeling a familiar, yet fresh, direction for Wild Nothing.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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