By Al Kaufman
Jack Tatum, the man behind Wild Nothing, loves his anguished ’80s synth-pop. After disbanding his punk band, Facepaint, he made a bit of a splash as Wild Nothing covering Kate Bush’s “Cloudbursting.” On Gemini, he digs a little deeper and unearths the likes of New Order and Cocteau Twins. He doesn’t cover any of their songs, he just sounds like he does.
The CD opens with “Live in Dreams,” in which Tatum recalls New Order’s more dour precursor, Joy Division. He sings, “Our lips won’t last forever and that is why/I’d rather live in dreams and I’d rather die.” It’s that goth romantic feel that screams for black eyeliner, and, like the CD cover, is both disturbing and beautiful in its simplicity and sincerity. The song gives way to “Summer Holiday,” in which Tatum all but blatantly steals the guitar line from New Order’s “Age of Consent,” which is not necessarily a bad thing.
While much of the CD plays like Tatum is the second coming of Bernard Sumner, he also goes on to sing a gorgeous falsetto (“Drifter” and “Confirmation”), rip off (pay homage to?) a couple of Cure guitar riffs (“Gemini”), and even cobble together a sort of church dirge (“Pessimist”). Through it all, Tatum lays down lush sounds with shimmery yet soulful synth lines, and even manages to get a bit perky on the summery “Our Composition Book.”
Tatum not only wears his influences on his sleeve, he wears them on his legs, chest, and head as well. Yet Gemini still manages to sound like a cohesive, personal work. It’s not as if Tatum is trying to copy his 4AD record collection, it is just a sound that fits him well.
Wild Nothing plays the Rock and Roll Hotel Saturday, February 12.