Artist: Nick Waterhouse
Album: Time’s All Gone
It’s uncanny – from the opening notes of Nick Waterhouse’s newest album there is the distinctly unnerving sensation of both familiarity and newness; the sound of another era that growls, glows, and swings all at once while creating something fresh that was never there before. There is a brief moment of disorientation upon listening to the songs here because it often feels like they were lost in time, casually transmuting the listener into an historian to a past that never was.
Time’s All Gone channels late 1950s/early 1960s R&B, with doo-wopping female back-up vocalists, prominent brassy horns, and snapping rhythms that draw out the primal urge to dance as surely as hips love to swing. Nick’s vocals occasionally flare out with emphatic distortion as he sings, shouts, and grunts. An obvious labor of love, the SoCal-born musician masters his recordings in mono, using vintage analogue equipment. This love creates a sound that occasionally dips into a sultry room tone hiss (“Raina,” “Don’t You Forget It”), and richly saturates every song on the album.
The themes of the songs feel as authentic as the instrumentation – love (both the before and after varieties), schoolyard menace, and precautionary warnings of a misspent life punctuate music that respectively sighs, threatens, and wags a finger in perfect accompaniment. It’s difficult to find a song here that disappoints. Each piece feels solidly constructed, with careful thought given to every musical arrangement. “I Can Only Give You Everything” has an ominous tone with deep, brassy swells and ironic lyrics. Quick peppy organs and bursts of top hatting accentuate the threat of “(If) You Want Trouble” while the back-up singers soulfully intone their echoes and vowels. “Teardrop Will Follow You” features breaks as dramatic accentuation, similar to the musical breaks in “Is That Clear” where an almost call-and-response type of playfulness occurs. Faux Native American drums and supporting vocals in “Indian Love Call” evoke 1950s and 60s stereotypes of that culture smoothly, blending them into surf guitar and tambourines – a gentle induction of novelty rock songs from those eras. “Some Place” features cascading drums played by hand accompanied by Nick’s growls and howls. The introductory song, “Say I Wanna Know,” saunters with a deep, swinging rock sound and an organ that pleads while Nick wails and the back-up vocals demand. “Time’s All Gone Pt. 1” and “Time’s All Gone Pt. 2” need not have been so cruelly divided; it is intensely satisfying to hear the progression of the music from vocal-oriented to instrumentation-oriented.
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This music is earnest, sincere – it is not mere imitation, or a love letter to yesterday, instead it is pure creation through the process of emulation. This might seem like parsing hairs, but there is a true difference; this is not a man of today wearing yesterday’s suit, this is yesterday’s man wearing yesterday’s suit. The result is not retro, but a slipstream of time we’re only too lucky to plunge into.