Spare a dream, brother?

Wild Nothing takes you back to the ’80s, even if you weren’t there

Oh, how genres ebb and flow in popularity with our world’s hip elite.

Wild Nothing takes you back to the ’80s, even if you weren’t there

Oh, how genres ebb and flow in popularity with our world’s hip elite.

It wasn’t so long ago that garage rock was the really cool alternative genre. I suppose everyone who used to play loud music in their garage got kicked out, because the new cool thing is dream pop.

As a genre, dream pop depends on having lots of space for effects and other devices. Angst and grit are kept to a minimum, and such emotions are channeled into a tap dance over a pile of meticulously kept contraptions scattered over one’s carpeted floor. Or, occasionally, stage.

Dream pop, as you may have guessed, is 2012’s shoegaze. It’s light, airy, slickly produced pop music that dabbles in the dreary and synthetic world of bands like My Bloody Valentine and New Order. It’s the kind of music you play when you have a lot of money. Let’s leave it at that.

The band is Wild Nothing, and the album is Nocturne, the band’s second. This band in fact isn’t a band at all when it comes to actually producing the music. Wild Nothing is the brainchild of one Jack Tatum, who was previously in a few bands I can guarantee you’ve never heard of (bands that sound a lot like Wild Nothing).

Nocturne is as much a testament to one man’s sheer determination and love of music as it is about you, the listener, getting down in your bedroom. On its surface, it is a wonderfully produced piece of music, with the drums and synth work particularly fantastic.

Sure, Nocturne has the prettiest wrapping paper and the crispest bow, but what’s inside?

Well, if you were a child on Christmas, and the sheer barrage of presents gave you just a minute or so to inspect the gift inside, you would exclaim, “Oh boy, 11 versions of what the Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘1979’ would have sounded like if it had been recorded in 1986!”

This is no exaggeration. Between weaving in and out of Corgan-esque melancholy and ’80s teen comedy music, Nocturne touches both bases with equal footing.

To be a little more scrutinizing, Nocturne sounds like Mellon Collie-era Billy Corgan recording “1979” in 2012’s Southeast Portland, 25 years ago. As snarky as this pigeonholing sounds, it’s really not a bad record at all. In fact, parts of it are downright pleasant in a brooding, maudlin sort of way.

The record’s opener, “Shadow,” is a perfect pacesetter, except for the downbeats; there aren’t many of those later on. The track contains just the right amount of instrumental interplay and really shows Tatum as the superb musician he is.

Nocturne reveals that some musicians are wonderful with their instruments, but still prefer to sink into a chair on the studio’s cutting room floor. Tatum’s Nocturne is a masterfully produced piece of work. In fact, it’s one of the crispest, best-sounding records I’ve heard in a long time.

The structuring is masterful; the bass and guitars sit right atop the perfectly programmed drums, and the synthesizers intermingle with the guitars in just the right way. With two such bravado-soaked instruments vying for the spotlight, it’s refreshing to hear a record where equilibrium is reached.

The record’s second track, “Midnight Song,” is another exercise in programming wizardry. Fans will appreciate the melodious interplay, while musicians will bask in the level of production skill, right before they Google “Wild Nothing studio technique” to learn how to do the same thing.

While this record is definitely dream pop, it also tightropes the line between the aforementioned genre and ’80s dating montage music. The record’s title track and “Paradise” both sound like songs playing on the radio of the Ford Tempo that John Cusack and Molly Ringwald make out in the back of.

That isn’t to say that the music is overwhelmingly lighthearted—there’s an air of gloom waiting around every corner of every track, but that’s the ’80s for you.

One facet of the ’80s that Wild Nothing likely didn’t plan on is the essence of Dire Straits—more specifically, Mark Knopfler—poking through at random intervals on Nocturne. Some tracks are peppered with notes in between notes, kind of an ’80s pop excess that dots Dire Straits’ music.

There are a couple of misses on the record—most notably “Through the Grass,” the requisite off-time ’80s soundtrack staple. This particular example is a woefully executed cloverleaf of 100 ideas and no real direction.

What’s more, the final track, “Rheya,” sounds like a cut straight out of the middle, shuffled to the end of the deck. It ends with the listener fully expecting another track to follow it. Instead, you get silence, which is bad, because Nocturne is pretty thoroughly enjoyable.

Tatum’s latest should be relatively well-received by anyone who lived through even one year of the ’80s. If you like your pop served up crystal clear and a little dejected, look no further. As for me, I’m sitting here enjoying breakfast for dinner, alone with my indifferent cat. As I listen to Nocturne, I realize it is a perfect record for enjoying breakfast for dinner, alone, with an indifferent cat.