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Waterhouse is a successful recording artist, with one well-received LP and several high-profile tours and collaborations to his name. But his latest work still embodies the struggle of his early forays. During “This Is a Game,” Waterhouse sets up a snarly, post-surf guitar solo with a succinct statement of a cynical outlook: “This is a game / Please remember my words / And don’t get upset when you don’t get what you think you deserve.” And on the gothic-soul strut “Let It Come Down,” he meditates on the inevitability of pain. “If there’s gonna be rain tonight,” he sings in a stoic croon. “Let it come down.”
It’s clear from this material that Waterhouse is in the midst of his own becoming. He isn’t the type to let ecstasy take over, like Van Morrison, or to drawl away in a consummately laid-back register, like Mose Allison. In the tension between his wry lyrics and crisp arrangements, you hear the expression of a worldly skeptic who’s also—when it comes to his art—a sanctified believer. Whoever it was that Nick Waterhouse wanted to be matters less now; these days, he just sounds like himself.