It invariably happens every time we decide to go out to some place casual. I vainly attempt to dress myself and then my wife takes a gander at my ensemble. “No,” is the simple retort, sometimes along with a pointing index finger back to the bedroom, but always with her choice of new clothes. The answer to my queries about my look is always the same, “because you look like a refugee from the ’90s.” It makes sense, because after all, I am. It was in the ’90s that I became independent, in living situation and financially, which meant I was able to buy and listen to the music I wanted, and I was forced to purchase my own clothes, which wasn’t very often. So naturally, when I became a married man early in this decade, most of my gear was purely Southern California, circa 1994 and previous. I didn’t even realize that the ’90s had a particular look, minus the flannel clad scene of the Pacific Northwest, but according to my wife, it does, and I’m apparently stuck in it. I’m not alone, however, as Jeremy Enigk seems to have pulled the same lever on the Wayback machine, or jumped forward from 1996 to the present with the help of some musical flux capacitor.
Jeremy Enigk, outside of Morrissey, probably has one of the most diverse fanbases in music. As the frontman for Seattle’s Sunny Day Real Estate, he captured quite a few fans in and around the grunge scene of the time. Add to that the aficionados of a burgeoning ’emo’ movement, a group of Christian followers after his ‘conversion,’ then lovers of orchestral pop, and you have quite a hodge-podge of listeners. The trouble is, each set of fans seemingly has something they want to complain about concerning Enigk’s first solo record in ten years, World Waits. Whether it’s the absence of aggression, an overtly Christian theme (with Enigk only saying ‘Lord’ in one song, George Harrison could have been seen as more ‘Christian’), or an over-the-top emo sobfest vibe, Enigk’s fans over the years are finding fault where there is essentially none. You see, World Waits is an incredibly solid record from start to finish, it’s just dressed in the clothes that Enigk apparently pilfered from my closet. It’s as if Enigk was so enamored of the sounds of Siamese Dream and Filter’s “Take a Picture,” that he bottled up some air from the last decade and hooked himself up to it’s essence via scuba tank to take in the feeling.
“A New Beginning” is ten years along from Enigk’s last solo release, the orchestral wonderment of The Return of the Frog Queen. Any output after that long a time has to be considered a new beginning, but it’s also almost as if no time has passed whatsoever. Bells ring to punctuate sweeping string sections a la “Disarm,” and it becomes time to pull out that old `Zero’ shirt once again. It is a trip to the past, but it’s one hell of a beautiful journey. As long as Enigk’s voice remains so textured and evocative, repetition or anachronism seems not to matter. “Been Here Before” has a title that says it all, and sounds like something off of a later Peter Gabriel record. In fact, one could say that his voice is a perfect blend of Gabriel’s raspy delivery and John Lennon’s melodic high notes. It’s a stunning combination, and alongside Craig Wedren, one of the finest voices of the ’90s. “River to Sea” then echoes the second part of that equation, sounding at times like his own version of “Happy Xmas (War is Over).” A decidedly Depeche Mode vibe, or at least Zooropa-era U2, complete with Edge like background vocals appears on “City Tonight.”
“Canons” brings back the Gabriel likeness, except that instead of aping “Solsbury Hill,” he goes after the big time (pun intended) with an “In Your Eyes” style number. Soon, Lloyd Dobler will be holding an iPod aloft under the window of the insurance company building where his former high school sweetheart, Diane Court, is working. “Dare a Smile” flip-flops back to the Lennon-esque-ness of previous songs, even at times outdoing John’s own son who took nearly as long with his latest album, Sean Lennon. The title track and closer, “Burn,” are two of the best songs on the album and well worth the wait (again, pun intended). The former finds Enigk’s voice punctuated by piano at first, and then some fantastic chamber pop. He proves with this song that he can gain yet another fan base, those who enjoy Death Cab for Cutie, Rogue Wave and Matt Pond PA. The latter again finds inspiration from Gabriel, and also Coldplay, equally dramatic and emotional, especially when the drums and piano find common ground and thunder along with unbridled ecstasy.
Already, some listeners have found fault with World Waits, although most unfairly. Ten years is a long time to contemplate what Enigk’s second solo album could sound like, and, as they say, satisfaction is the death of desire. What he’s done with this album is capture a particular type of music, a dramatic arena sound worthy of both ’80s and ’90s heavyweights; not too bad for an emo kid from Seattle. World Waits is an album I’ll be sure to listen to again and again, and thankfully, I have the clothes for it.