Album Review: GUM – Glamorous Damage by Nathan Brooks
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Jay “Gumby” Watson is a multi-instrumentalist, touring member of the Australian neo-psychedelic band Tame Impala and a member of another Australian neo-psychedelic band, Pond. On his own, he goes by the fittingly bizarre moniker GUM. Glamorous Damage, released in November 2015, is his second solo album. What does it sound like? Imagine Daft Punk. On drugs.
Watson has made a very similar stylistic decision to his mate Kevin Parker at Tame Impala, both choosing with their latest albums (Parker’s being Currents, released just a few months before Glamorous Damage) to revisit the sounds of the ‘80s, whilst adding their own psychedelic twist to it. Even though the premise is the same, Watson and Parker have gone about it in very different ways.
Quirky, weird with a messy, lo-fi sound
Much like his work with Pond, Watson’s album is quirkier and weirder than Parker’s, preferring to go for a more messy, lo-fi sound than the surprisingly hi-fi and polished sounds of Currents. He’s also got considerably less focus on lyrical content, preferring to let the music drown out his vocals, which does mean Glamorous Damage suffers a bit in comparison to Currents, which is a far easier album to get emotionally invested in.
Fortunately, Glamorous Damage doesn’t suffer one bit in the music department. The album opens with a quick, silly intro (aptly named G.U.M) made up of Watson saying “Gum” repeatedly, in various different pitches, with a funky bass guitar in the background. It sets the tone of the album right from the get go: this is no ordinary ride. The intro flows right into the first proper track Anesthetized Lesson, which, with the fantastic guitar/synth riff running throughout, is possibly the most awesome song you’ll hear this year. Well that is until you hear the title track, with an irresistibility heavy (and wonderfully trippy) guitar riff that sounds like someone gave Watson a James Bond theme song and a lot of drugs.
Album Review: GUM – Glamorous Damage
As well as brilliant riffs and great basslines, Watson makes use of a bunch of techniques to heighten the madness. There’s a couple of samples of people talking, like the title track, which uses a strange clip of someone discussing plugging things into machines and plays in between two insane performances of that glorious riff. There’s also a sample from what appears to be a nature programme on the track Ancients. Watson uses a lot of other techniques to amplify the weirdness, especially pitch shifting, which he mainly uses on his voice but also occasionally on the instruments, like in the penultimate track She Never Made It To Tell. There’s also the odd use of a bitcrusher and a lot of reverb is used on the vocals and other instruments.
The only real issue I have with the album is it starts to lose its energy at the end. After a fantastic cover of The Divinyls’ Science Fiction, which starts off surprisingly poignant compared to the rest of the album and then explodes into a fabulous mosh pit of mad, trippy sounds, the album forgets its funk. It becomes less like Daft Punk on drugs and instead the last few tracks seem like a bunch of great sounding instruments wandering about aimlessly.
Everything becomes a little forgettable
There’s none of the exciting and relentlessly catchy riffs on the rest of the album and everything becomes a little forgettable. It does sound great whilst you’re listening to it, granted, but you don’t remember much of it afterwards. Still, the album ends well with a pleasantly short track, Carnarvon, which – whilst quite minimalist compared to the other tracks – has some great, spacey vocals that, along with G.U.M, bookends the album quite nicely.
Glamorous Damage is a very enjoyable experience. It’s not as refined or emotional as Tame Impala’s outstanding album Currents, but it has its own irresistible, unique charm, as well as a ton of astonishing riffs and a host of quirky effects. Jay Watson’s, or GUM’s, latest musical trip lives up to its title as an undeniably glamorous and unapologetically strange treat of pure, psychedelic insanity.