- by Justin Pearson Rating:8 Release Date:2016-02-19 Label:
It's inevitable Jack Tatum would move in another direction with his Wild Nothing project. As passionate as the excellent Nocturne was, its follow-up, Life of Pause, leaves behind the brooding dreaminess for a more alert, wide-awake look at the world of love and heartache that he still seems concerned with. A little more upbeat and not as intense, it definitely sounds like the Wild Nothing of the past, but with more stylistic variation. And that's a good thing.
Tatum reflected on the writing process for this album when he spoke to Pitchfork recently: "Most of my songs are very straightforward. I'm a believer in classic songwriting."
Even with the formulaic nature of these songs, they don't feel trapped in any sort of bubble. They're wide-reaching and aware of what's beyond, while still being conscious of themselves. The best example of this would be 'Adore'. It's one of the best, most clear-eyed songs he's written, both in terms of compostion and theme.
Its strength lies in its instant accessibility, with a melody that alternates between undulating and swirling, led by a dreamy guitar line. The evocativeness of the imagery is potent, whether it's the song's train station or stairwell where the girl sits - "The one that I adore". The journey metaphor of leaving the baggage behind to move forward in a relationship is entirely appropriate in this context, and utterly heartfelt: "After all the dust has settled and you come walking out the dark into view/ Only then can I let it go/ Only then am I calm."
You can also feel the soul music that he claims to have influenced the album. This is especially noticeable on 'Whenever I'. It alternates between smooth jazz and 70's-era funk with a sultry saxaphone and bending, diving guitar line.
Thematically, the album deals in the power of woman over man, and it rarely deviates from this concept. The female characters that populate the songs engender plenty of passion, even worship. 'A Woman's Wisdom' highlights the submissive theme quite well: "I don't believe in heaven/ But baby you can be my church/ If you let me pay you a visit/ I will lay down at your feet."
The title track tackles attachment and the frustration of lover separation, describing it as "A love delayed" and a "Life of pause" as the remedy for once-again nearness.
Guitars that could have been lifted from Cocteau Twins' Heaven or Las Vegas open 'Alien', a song about a woman whose beauty is unearthly: "You're so pretty/ Where did you come from/ You make me feel like an alien."
'TV Queen' is full of assured movement, even though its subject matter is about a woman that's unattainable and artificial: "TV Queen putting clothes on/ Her film strip dress and her stockings." There's an undercurrent of bitterness and anger that comes to the surface at the chorus: "No/ That's not right/ I got so lost trying to know you/ Trying to touch you."
Life of Pause takes Jack Tatum's brand of dream pop further away from the veil of hushed night and into the bold light of day. What it does best is succinctly sum up what he's done with his music leading to this point and stuffs it in a capsule that preserves, while at the same time leaving a peephole just big enough to look out at the road ahead. Perhaps you need only to look at album opener 'Reichpop' to discover this. It's slightly funky, primal even with the tropical-tinged marimba that gives way to a dancing bass line and chanting/singing in the background. The random bleeps and whistle slides that make an entrance midway through keep it feeling loose but still connected as it rushes forward with the tribal-like momentum of the stomping drum pattern near the end, reflecting the song's end refrain that acts as both an album descriptor and the current state that Wild Nothing seems to be in at the moment: "It all flows on."