Tonight we are going to party like its 1989. We are going to put this record onto the turntable, kick off our shoes and dance our lives away as if that particular year, and the decade from which it comes will most surely live on forever deep in the mind of Jack Tatum whose vehicle is Wild Nothing. For this their second album, Tatum steps out of his low-fi Virginian bedroom and returns to the synth, echo and reverbed, drum blueprint of their 2010 debut, ‘Gemini‘. With ‘Nocturne’, Tatum welds a much bigger production sound to those contagious pop melodies which he now immerses in layers of shimmering guitars, quietly understated strings and illusory, breathy vocals.
So far so very good, but on closer inspection and despite a title which may suggest otherwise ‘Nocturne‘ quickly becomes the light to the shade of one of 1989’s truly epic albums, ‘Disintegration‘ by The Cure; in many respects it is the Dr Jekyll to that record’s Mr Hyde. Both utilise cascading synthesizer and fluid, molten guitar lines to great effect and both convey romanticism in their lyrical message (Wild Nothing’s ‘The Blue Dress’ is most surely The Cure’s ‘Lovesong’ by any other name) but it is the differences between the two records that highlight the eventual shortcomings of ‘Nocturne’. Whilst Robert Smith’s vision was on an equally grand scale he recognized the need to shroud his love songs in a much darker, more sinister hue. His acute sense of gothic melodrama is what truly made that record successful and it is ultimately the absence of any darkness whatsoever which is the undoing of ‘Nocturne’. It is often far too simple in its texture -overly breezy in its execution- and it is this lightness of touch that eventually removes it from the deeper memory bank of music that is built to last.
It is probably unfair to draw comparisons with ‘Disintegration’; that was after all The Cure’s eighth studio album and Smith was some seven years Tatum’s senior at the point of its release. And ‘Disintegration’ is a truly classic record both in the era it was made and the here and now. That is not to say that ‘Nocturne’ is a bad record -far from it. But for Tatum to continue to borrow his ideas and inspiration from the 1980s, and for his own voice to be properly heard in the modern age, he will need to significantly develop his grand design into something much more unique than this.