Nick Waterhouse – Time’s All Gone

If you don’t know singer, musician, producer and analog devotee Nick Waterhouse yet, you will soon. The 25 year-old product of Huntington Beach, CA turned heads at SXSW 2012 in March and released his debut album, Time’s All Gone, on May 1. The album is a fiercely confident, masterfully played and recorded work of a startlingly accomplished set of soul gems, equal parts Decca, Stax and Motown soul, Chess Records R&B, New Orleans brass and Chuck Berry attitude. Coming from a young man born in the late ’80s, the achievement of creating an album this intoxicating and infectiously grooving as Time’s All Gone provides a total shock to the system of “Who the Hell is this, and where did he come from?”

The answer to “Who the Hell is this?” is Nick Waterhouse, a meticulous 25 year-old Californian beach kid with an encyclopedic knowledge of 45 rpm one-off, came-and-went stars of generations ago, a wickedly precise ear for production and a band of reputable players in the likes of San Francisco garage-rock prodigy Ty Segall, members of Innovative Leisure’s The Allah-Lahs and a founding member of Earth, Wind & Fire. These individuals step up to the plate to fill out Waterhouse’s backing band, The Tarots, simply because his songs, style and playing are that damn good. The response to “Where did he come from?” is California, planted in a time-warp recording studio unaffected by the vast majority of popular sounds that have served as the waves of cultural influence the past several decades.

One look at Waterhouse and you can’t help but think Buddy Holly in his prime. He’s a sharp-looking, bookish, clean-cut twentysomething in vintage eyewear and a sharp suit. He was a Huntington Beach kid out of tune with the popular sounds in the current music industry, the compact disc format, Pro Tools and overproduced Auto-Tune vocals. He moved to San Francisco after high school seeking cutting-edge sounds and modern creativity, but got discouraged with the rampant abundance of posing. His salvation came from his time spent working at a hole in the wall record store in lower Haight called Rooky Ricardo’s, which he has described as a store “without a cash register – just a guy and a box.” The experience put him in touch with a treasure chest of vintage 45s that he soaked up, filled his mind to the brim and amassed a wealth of music history the majority of his peers likely didn’t know existed.

Within seconds of “Say I Wanna Know,” the first cut on Time’s All Gone, you are acutely aware you have unearthed something truly special. Waterhouse brings a sold-out club after midnight energy, packs a vintage Phil Spector tuned ear for production and a full band sound that gets tighter and tighter with every passing second. Try and pick out all the influences and you’ll be overwhelmed. This is no posturing though; Waterhouse isn’t skimming the surface of the greats trying to make a buck off time-tested sounds that have come and gone. The California Literary Journal offers a spot-on take of Waterhouse’s genius. It says, “this is not a man of today wearing yesterday’s suit, this is yesterday’s man wearing yesterday’s suit.”

Nick Waterhouse isn’t the lone, vintage stalwart playing soul music of this caliber minus the nostalgia. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Mayer Hawthorne, Charles Bradley, Mark Ronson and Hanni El Khatib (on Innovative Leisure with Waterhouse) have all cut their teeth on generations-gone pop masters, and they all play honest-to-God soul with technical skill and jubilant energy without trying to sound like anybody but themselves. Where Waterhouse matches each of their abilities for knocking out tunes with the definitive feeling of instant classics and a knack for mysteriously worn-in melodies for brand new tunes, he stakes out his own territory by putting a sound right in front of your face that you swore you’ve heard time and again. It sounds like the soundtrack to the coolest film you’ve never seen but swear you’d love if you could get your hands on it.

As a self-proclaimed Quentin Tarantino fiend, my vote for superior film of the past quarter-century goes to Pulp Fiction. Quentin’s mastery of stealing from the best and creating brutally cutting, junk-in-the-bloodstream obsessive collages culled from pop culture, vintage sounds and unabashed cool is unparalleled. You can hardly think of a single instance out of the 154 minutes of perfection in Pulp Fiction without conjuring an indispensable tune from the soundtrack. Perhaps Nick Waterhouse is not a fan of Pulp Fiction; I can’t say, because I’ve never spoken to the man. What I can assuredly say is that the Pulp Fiction soundtrack has been a mainstay in my music collection since middle school, no matter how my tastes have evolved. What I heard on the first listen of Nick Waterhouse’s Time’s All Gone is the unearthed soundtrack to a Pulp Fiction sequel that never hit the silver screen. For all I know, the entirety of Time’s All Gone is going to back every scene to Django Unchained upon its Christmas 2012 release.

The fruitful gifts you unwrap when you put Time’s All Gone are the stuff of classic soul: delirious energy, flirtatious dancefloor come-ons, expert horn sections, girl-group soul backing vocals, an accomplished voice of a man three times Waterhouse’s age, early Stones guitar solos, snaking organ lines and a pressed, polished, signed, sealed and delivered chart-topping pre-Vietnam 45 rpm sound for every cut on the album. If you’re craving a masterwork of sexy soul, immensely enjoyable sweaty and old-school R&B songcraft, you’ve found your Doctor Robert. Put your faith in a young man delightfully out of step with the reality television age and the current Billboard charts. When you hear the album, you’ll know why Waterhouse was tapped by Booker T. to open for the legendary master of soul in spite of lacking a full-length release under his belt.

Dive into both the first exceptional soul and R&B release of 2012. Here’s to a bright future and a cult following for the young Nick Waterhouse.

Time’s All Gone is now available in vinyl, cd and digital download formats courtesy of Innovative Leisure records.


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