Northern Transmissions reviews 'The Underdog' by GUM


The Underdog


Coming off his time in Tame Impala one would wonder what direction Jay Watson would take his psychedelic music when given full license. Though colleagues like Pond seem to go for a completely whimsical and almost too experimental route, GUM proves to be a nice mix of nostalgic rock and modern ideas. Though it’s not always breaking new ground or sticking the landing how you’d expect, GUM proves clever and intriguing on their latest effort.

Engulfing synths and harmonies create a mesmerizing energy on “Introduction” before Watson and co bring in a surprising punch of hooks. As the track continues to bounce in its tremolo energy, the roars of life start the album off in a big and powerful way. “The Underdog” hits listeners with riff after riff, as Watson plays around with familiar melodies in unexpected ways. Despite its immersive sound and a wondrous horn solo, you may find yourself recognizing parts of this track a little too well at times.

This isn’t the case however on “S.I.A.” as Watson brings out a warped but hypnotic electronic marvel of a track that invigorates listeners from the outset. Using its main beat and hook as a core, the track explores the reaches of Watson’s experimentation to make the track colourful. “Serotonin” slows things down for a dreamy and at times futuristic Pink Floyd energy. Though it carries a couple undertones of Temples’ bright psych rock, Watson’s unique electronica really sets his compositions apart.

The wavy vibraphone mixed with almost cheesy retro synths starts “After All (From The Sun)” on an intriguing note, though its sound can feel like more of a novelty than really evocative at times. Though it starts on a fairly monotonous vocal loop, the punch that carries the guitars in on this track are fun and triumphant. “Rehearsed In A Dream” eventually finds its footing in the beat and creepy crawl it takes through clouds of effects and lounge beats. Like many tracks on the record, it seems to be relying on known musical elements more often than not.

“Couldn’t See Past My Ego” is a weird double-sided track that soars in its massive synth dives but feels a little too sparing in its guitar verses which never seem to end. Though these elements are integrated into the later parts of the song with a more natural flow, it’s a little funny to see the title become a selffulfilling prophecy on this song. In the swirling guitar lines and harmonies of “The Blue Marble” Watson creates a cosmic quality that really lets the beat kick things open. Once it hits its stride, the song really has a spacey luster that never fades, even as the song seems to run endlessly in its bass-y stomp.

In its mantra-like rush, “Trying My Best” builds with a massive sense of tension that keeps going as if it’s announcing the end of days. Though it seems like he’s hitting an electronic like final moment before a drop however, Watson leaves things a tad anti-climactic as he just lets the song end on what would be a great setup. “The Fear” takes a bouncy and dance-ready rhythm, and charges it with his powerful synth work to create a startling club-ready track on the album. The track’s seemingly endless drive of vocal hooks and powerful drums even injects a little Talking Heads into its final moments.

Words by Owen Maxwell


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