There are two distinct sides to Walter Etc.’s ‘Gloom Cruise’, and these are very much reflected in the title and artwork. While the pastel shades and gorgeous illustration point to breezy pop, the title masks something far deeper.
And so it proves. Walter Etc. (previously known as Walter Mitty and His Makeshift Orchestra) play gorgeous indie-pop, whimsical and engaging and so gentle it could get blown away on a light breeze. Hooks are strong throughout, with Dustin Hayes’ relaxed tones adding to the on-the-beach vibe. On songs like ‘Petunia. You’re Home’ the pop sensibilities shine wonderfully, and it really feels like ‘Gloom Cruise’ is the perfect summer album.
Yet, lyrically, there’s much more going on than on a ‘throwaway’ pop album. As well as being adept at penning a glorious tune, there’s also a melancholy heart to the lyrics that is both poignant and crushingly heartbreaking.
Written as a concept album in response to his mental health battles, there are moments of introspection that are beautifully realised, such as on the swooning ‘Winter Shy’, where Hayes ruminates about a song, saying that he can: “hear it in my head but I can’t play it; comes out as someone else’s song.” Somewhat ironically, such insight comes wrapped inside one of the most strikingly beautiful songs you’ll hear all year.
Like most great concept albums, it reaches a satisfying conclusion too. ‘Baby Blue Hammock’ – one of the albums more upbeat moments – sees Hayes achieve some resolution and realisation: “If it all just falls apart; if it all fits into place; if it all just turns to shit commence my psychological defence” he asserts; never has a hard won truth sounded so triumphant.
One of the biggest misnomers is that there’s no cultural cache in pop music – that by its nature it should be disposable. Bands like Defiance Ohio or Saturday Looks Good To Me – or Walter Etc. – prove that’s not the case. Few albums this year will have such depth or spirit, and when an album can move your feet but shake your soul, you know you’ve found something special.
‘Gloom Cruise’ by Walter Etc. is released on 25th August on Lauren Records, Lame-O Records and Making New Enemies.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)