In making an album so perfectly produced, one might even say over-produced, Wild Nothing lose the rough edge that made their earlier work so interesting
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Jack Tatum’s Wild Nothing returns with its follow-up to 2016’s ‘Life of Pause’, and first album since relocating to Los Angeles. ‘Indigo’, the band’s fourth album, builds upon their previous, relatively lo-fi albums with eleven highly polished, synth-based indie-pop songs. Indicating an increase in the production budget, Wild Nothing are able to craft these tracks with incredible attention to detail, giving the sense that every aspect of the record was pored over with precision. Opening track ‘Letting Go’, for example, is introduced with a snare drum roll before being joined by guitar, bass and synthesisers, all mixed so each element remains distinct yet perfectly entwined. This production can often lead to near-hypnotic arrangements, as in ‘Shallow Water’ which features a Robert Fripp influenced high guitar drone in its chorus. This track, along with most on the album, is built upon steady synthesiser swells which provide dream-like textures that contribute to the accessibility of the record.
However it is this accessibility that is perhaps the album’s biggest detriment. In making an album so perfectly produced, one might even say over-produced, Wild Nothing lose the rough edge that made their earlier work so interesting. While earlier albums were not exactly challenging, their production quality lent them a rough, gritty edge that set them apart from similar, 80s influenced indie acts of the 2010s. If career highlight ‘Gemini’ invited comparisons to Echo & The Bunnymen, ‘Indigo’ is more likely to be compared to Duran Duran; quality arrangements and musicianship but ultimately resulting in a record with little substance to offer beneath the pristine production.
The album’s highpoint comes toward the end of the album with track ‘Canyon On Fire’, an apparent lament to the inauthenticity of Tatum’s adoptive home of Los Angeles. Featuring lines such as “needless palaces kissing the hillside” and “every dream exactly like the last”, ‘Canyon On Fire’ appears to be a rebuttal of L.A.’s obsession with image and class, while also questioning the notion of the American Dream. Opening with a short synthesiser soundscape and a distorted electric guitar line, ‘Canyon On Fire’ sounds like it could easily be a Cure song sung by Bernard Sumner of New Order. In true Cure fashion, the track features a playful xylophone-sounding guitar line that masks the darker themes of the song.
While other tracks on the album also feature lines lamenting a “broken world” (‘Letting Go’) and the “age of detachment” (‘The Closest Thing To Living’), these statements are often at odds with the immaculate sound of the record. This messaging often rings somewhat hollow on an album that has been produced so that every detail is near-perfect.
With ‘Indigo’ Wild Nothing successfully expand upon the sound and textures prevalent on their previous albums. Yet in doing so they lose a certain edge that made their earlier material so engaging. In sacrificing that element of the music Wild Nothing have created a record that, while undoubtedly a tremendous achievement in terms of production, is somewhat shallow and does not hold up to repeat listens.