The violent saxophone that opens "This Is a Game" serves one purpose – to let you know that Nick Waterhouse is a soul man, through and through. Waterhouse paid his dues as a teenager in the Orange County garage rock scene, opening for modern psych mainstays Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin and the Growlers. After a stint spinning classic R&B wax on the San Francisco soul scene, he moved back down south to record his debut album, Time's All Gone. He's about to release his second album, Holly, which underscores his dedication to the stylings of Sam Cooke, Sam and Dave and Solomon Burke.
"'This Is a Game' seems good for dancing to, has got a real good syncopation going, and I like singing the word 'visions,'" Waterhouse told Rolling Stone. "I wrote it in a dressing room in Rennes, France after months promoting my last record."
Indeed, the song bears the marks of something that was whipped up in a mad dash. As the sax howls thick, sleazy strands, Waterhouse's slicing guitar darts in, at first referencing surf music and then the hard notes of Chicago blues. Waterhouse's voice is ripped from the mid-Fifties, with a slight reverb referencing the single-microphone recording era. As with so many classics of that era, he caps the song off with a werewolf howl followed by an aggressive organ solo, suggesting that not all games are fun and games.
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