Are you a child of the Windmill Brixton? All of us babyfaced, barely legal and sneaking tins into gigs before screaming along to ‘Social Experiment’ by the Dead Pretties like some still-pimpled pheromonal cult. We’ve all seemingly grown up in the past five years, and the Dead Pretties frontman himself, Jacob Slater, is no exception.
There has been a slow tease of singles, beginning with ‘Teal,’ which holds some of the flavour that you’ll find familiar from those wild nights in 2017; it’s there in its hyperactivity, as well the balance of a gentle croon against that snarl from the back of the throat. Fans of old are launched back into the arms of the Jacob they used to know, whilst the new are freshly immersed in a world of shoegaze and Britpop. The lyrics, however, are a nostalgic piece of heartache, with love and death juxtaposed against a thumping crescendo that fills you up and up and up until you feel as though the raw vocals are ripping from your own throat.
A B-side to ‘Teal’ follows shortly after in the form of the short but eerily saccharine ‘One For the Pigeons.’ To me it’s a bittersweet Jeff Buckley and Sufjan Stevens hybrid, taking the falsettoed voice of one and playing it over the instrumental stylings of another (‘The Other Woman – Studio Outtake’ meets ‘Death With Dignity,’ if you want me to specify). It’s gloomy and unusual, once again with surreal lyrics of love and death, but this time as a tranquil lullaby of a chaser to the youthful adrenaline shot of ‘Teal.’
The most recent release as of November is ‘Poppy,’ a vibrant and heady piece of 90s-esque psychedelia that emanates the opiate-suggestive title of the name, but only in sound. In both lyric and tone, Slater once again gives us a masterclass in evoking nostalgia, placing a haunting backing track to our hindsight. ‘Poppy’ feels as though it should be played in the background of melancholy time-travel, like a theme song to a TV shows akin to ‘Life on Mars’ or ‘Ashes to Ashes.’ The lyrics fall away in the middle of the song, leaving us with roughly two minutes of intense guitar that sends you to some dimension where Woodstock and Spike Island meet.
Wunderhorse plays with my nostalgia because I was there, being choke-slammed whilst crowd surfing to the Dead Pretties at Moth Club. The themes of love, death, and the passing of time take me back to that era too. I unexpectedly got to spend a little bit of time on a project with Jacob this year, and we had a couple of chats about the past. We talked about who we were then and who we are trying to be now, and after listening to his new songs, I now know I couldn’t have had a conversation about those topics with a better person.
(photographed by Yi-Hsuan Li / @maretrail)
Nostalgia is a treasured artefact, something that is generally untethered by any one particular emotion, but when it does hit a nerve or strike a chord, it’s easy to get lost within it. While listening to Wunderhorse it’s easy to float around in the past, whilst also wondering about what comes next. Have we really grown up all that much? I certainly hope not.
Not yet anyway.
Wunderhorse plays at the Lexington on 10/03/22
Tickets available via Dice