written by Chris Payne
The story of Wild Nothing, aka Jack Tatum, is one of a bedroom musician finding his groove as a relative unknown and following his muse into uncharted territory. After composing his 2010 debut LP, Gemini, as a student at Virginia Tech, Tatum received enough acclaim to earn a following and pursue further recordings. Most recently, he’s given us Nocturne, a sophomore effort that adds some well-deserved polish to Wild Nothing’s 80s college rock-meets-dreampop sound without straying from the emotional depth that made the band so alluring in the first place. Lately, their set features new standards like “Shadow” and “Nocturne,” though hopefully they’ll find room for some old favorites like “Chinatown.”
Still sporting his knitted hat, Jack Tatum and Wild Nothing came inside from a rainy New York afternoon to share some twilight-tinged dream pop from the band’s aptly titled Nocturne for KEXP’s live broadcast at CMJ Union in New York City during the 2012 CMJ Music Marathon. Watching Wild Nothing’s 2012 incarnation perform makes you wonder if Tatum had ever envisioned playing with a full band, let alone such a finely-tuned quintet. The one-time bedroom artist was cool and collected, and able to shake off the rigors of a packed CMJ itinerary with some deadpan humor: “CMJ’s pretty busy, unless you’re in a band. Then it just sucks. Just kidding, that was really negative.”
As usual, Tatum saved the true emotion for his yearning, often starry-eyed pop songs. Even from a Union Square basement, it was easy to get swept away in Wild Nothing’s nocturnal-themed pop, imagining Tatum and company performing in some faraway outdoor venue, preferably just after twilight.
The band chose heavily from their latest effort, picking “Shadow,” “The Blue Dress,” “Only Heather,” and “Nocturne” from their 2012 effort for Captured Tracks. Some throbbing basslines and an additional guitar (to Tatum’s black Rickenbacker) helped flesh out the band’s sound and brought a tougher backbone to the live performance.
From the band’s debut, album cuts “Summer Holiday” and “Confirmation” received the live treatment and fit the set quite seamlessly. It’s further proof that although Wild Nothing certainly haven’t reinvented themselves, they’ve got enough up their sleeves to continue wooing those who missed college rock’s golden days, as well as those with fond memories of them.