Wild Nothing – ‘Laughing Gas’ EP review: the former chillwave producer goes a bit Tears For Fears

With nods to '80s synth-pop – and to Gary Numan in particular – this palate cleanser sees Jack Tatum expand his horizons

Somehow it’s been nearly 10 years since Jack Tatum of Wild Nothing shared his lo-fi dream-pop debut with the world. ‘Gemini’ arrived during a period of transition between late noughties chillwave and surf-rock indie, a time when Beach House’s ‘Teen Dream’ and Beach Fossils’ self-titled record set the tone for daydreamy mood music.

With each subsequent release – 2012’s ‘Nocturne’, 2016’s’ Life of Pause’ and 2018’s ‘Indigo’ – Tatum has whacked up the fidelity without shedding too much of his ‘80s indie pop affections.

The songs on ‘Laughing Gas’ were originally written and recorded alongside last year’s ‘Indigo’ before Tatum isolated the songs for a separate release. It was a smart move; ‘Laughing Gas’ is a lush paean to ‘80s precision pop, all snaking funk basslines, synth claps and reverb-addled drums. ‘Indigo’ showcased Tatum’s improved technical prowess, though carried more obvious traces of his earlier material. ‘Laughing Gas’ is more unique.

‘Foyer’, the EP’s second single, is the best example of Tatum wearing his retro influences on his sleeve. Unlike the other tracks it’s rooted by a drum machine instead of live drums, riddled with menacing new wave synths that would make Gary Numan’s ears prick up. Lyrically, Tatum hangs on to finding beauty amid the mundanity of married life, a theme he explored on ‘Indigo’. “They say it gets easier, is it true? / Spiral down the sink drain into you,” he deadpans. His lyrics have improved dramatically since he released the obtuse ‘Gemini’.

Tatum rounds the record off with a meticulous, downbeat piece of yacht rock. ‘The World Is A Hungry Place’ sees him play with metaphors about the planet’s perils, ironically soundtracking the sense of doom with sensual sax notes and cocksure beats. It sounds like Tears For Fears – no bad thing.

Could this indicate be the new soft-rock direction that Wild Nothing will head in? Perhaps. But if the last 10 years are anything to go by, Tatum has little intention to so completely overhaul his sound. That suits us just fine.

Release date: January 31

Record label: Captured Tracks